Project Release: Margo Ovcharenko, "Furious like a child"

fototazo publishes new photography projects, providing an early look at images from selected artists. Today's Project Release is from Margo Ovcharenko.

Ovcharenko (b. 1989, Krasnodar, Russia) is a Moscow-based photographer.

Gender roles in contemporary Russia are at the forefront of her work and her photographs deal with beauty standards, intimacy, hidden despair, and trying to define the thin line between grown-ups and teenagers. Ovcharenko chooses not to pose her subjects, intuitively revealing the fragile vulnerability of young adults. Her models are sometimes friends, but more often people that she has just met on the internet. She enjoys the challenge of taking intimate portraits of people she has only recently known.

Ovcharenko has had solo exhibitions in Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow and St.Petersburg; her work was selected for the 2012 Houston FotoFest biennial; New York Foto Festival 2011; reGeneration2 — Tomorrow's Photographers Today, Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland; Forum for New European Photography 2011; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland. She recently received grant support from Garace CCC, Moscow, Russia, a fund for young Russian artists; she also attended a one-year residency at the La Fabrica Benetton research center in Treviso, Italy.

Her work has been presented in such magazines as Camera Austria, European Photography, Unless you will, Calvert magazine, Artchronika, and others.

Ovcharenko graduated from The Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia in 2011 and is represented by RUSSIANTEAROOM Gallery, Paris. Selected prints are available through Aperture Foundation, New York.

A statement on the work provided by the artist based on the statement used for a show of this work at the RUSSIANTEAROOM Gallery follows the images.


"Furious like a child" was Margo Ovcharenko's first solo exhibition, presented at the RUSSIANTEAROOM Gallery in Paris. The project was developed as part of the artist's residence at FABRICA, the Benetton Group’s communication research center; all images were taken in the Russian countryside.

The exhibition comprised a selection from the 120 images, as well as brief interviews with her models, collected by Ovcharenko. The ensemble is a mosaic of visual clichés: young women still children posing in front of the photographer, small gymnasts captured during their lessons, portraits on tombstones of women of the past, excerpts from the artist's own archives that refer to fragments of artist's life as a child, dressed as a gymnast, and finally some images from pornographic magazines. "My desire is to not give you a puzzle to put together, which gives a predetermined picture of good or evil," she says. Rather, the images are elements of continuous reflection, of personal experiences and those of others, a collection of stories.

Ovcharenko's interest in her role as a photographer is recording "the amazing combination of two contrasting feelings, shame and frivolity." How do people photographed in these imperfectly framed images appear playful, fragile and naive, open and honest at the same time?

Margo Ovcharenko wants to create a testimony to herself as a child gymnast, an aesthetic discipline she describes as being particularly cruel to the body and mind, manipulated to demonstrate the power of the Soviet regime. The burden of representing the country at the highest level was placed on the fragile shoulders of those small girls.

However, above all Margo is a contemporary woman who perceives implicitly that life is made up of natural and artificial tensions, relationships to build and to maintain, attitudes to display. This perception equally affects the women of old as translated through the tombstone photo images. One senses in these portraits the imperative to play nice for the camera which did not succeed to erase the sorrow in their eyes. Why were these beautiful female flowers brutalized, broken and cut down at such an early age? How does one adapt to survive in such a world? How does one keep one's integrity and soul, and not end up like Anna Karenina? Margo Ovcharenko's women prepare early in life for situations of personal crisis. They forge their character by taking positions full of force, while adapting by pretending to be fragile.

"No, I do not want to be weak," said one of them. But does she have that choice?

By comparing the rituals of dance and death for women, Margo Ovcharenko’s thorough process becomes sociological. It lays bare the mechanisms of a system that grasps at aesthetic aspirations (grace, beauty, perfection) to capture the individual. The work presented here therefore opens a new branch of the mental map around these themes.