211 - Yelena Yemchuk
Aug 16, 2023 • E211 • 01:17:20
Yelena Yemchuk's output as a visual artist is immediately recognizable, regardless of medium. Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, Yelena immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was eleven. She became interested in photography when her father gave her a 35mm Minolta camera for her fourteenth birthday.
Yelena went on to study art at Parsons in New York and photography at Art Center in Pasadena. Yelena has exhibited paintings, films and photography at galleries and museums worldwide. She has shot for the New Yorker, New York Times, Another, ID, Vogue, and others.
Yelena released her first book Gidropark, published by Damiani in April 2011, followed by Anna Maria, published by United Vagabonds in September 2017. Yelena had her first institutional debut with her project Mabel, Betty & Bette, a photography and video work at the Dallas Contemporary Museum. A monograph with the same title was released by Kominek Books in March 2021. Her newest book Odesa was released in May 2022, by Gost Books.
In episode 211, Yelena discusses, among other things:
- The relevance of her book to the current war
- The “immigrant parent bullshit story”
- Moving to New York
- The influence of her uncle and her dad’s best friend
- Discovering her calling at art school doing photography
- Her early career success, including working with Smashing Pumpkins
- Returning to Ukraine in 1990
- Gidropark project
- Deciding to focus on her personal work
- Mabel, Betty & Bette
- YYY, published by Depart pour l’image
- Odessa being “love at first sight”
- Deciding to focus on the youth
- Forthcoming book, Milanka
“It was very clear to me that I needed to tell the story of these people. Not just the cadets, but the story of the people in Odesa. And it was like an urgency. I wanted to go back all the time. If i didn’t have kids I probably would have just stayed there. I couldn’t get enough… I was going back and forth. I couldn’t stop. I had to tell this story. I had to shoot these people. It was like a romance. It was like I had a lover over there.”