Alina Golovachenko | Mentee in focus

Alina Golovachenko | Mentee in focus

Alina attended our 6 Month Photography Mentorship Program this year. Alina has recently published her first book. We speak to Alina about her photographic practice and journey.

How did you become part of the Contact Sheet community? 

I came across Contact Sheet when I moved to Sydney from Victoria, and wanted to create a structure to my personal work. The aim was to find out if the stories I thought I was telling, were coming out in my images. I wanted a mentor and a workshop setting to guide me – rather than always online. It’s not always been easy, but I got exactly that. Paul calls you on your own BS!

What inspired the creation of the book? 

What inspired the creation of the book came from noticing a particular quality of life that comes from living offshore. It has this rogueish, what I see as an ‘old Sydney’ (a feeling I have not backed up with any research whatsoever) thing of doing what you want. It’s a bit jerry built, held together by mooring line. There’s a thing called ‘the island way’ which usually means just going ahead and doing things like jumping in the ferry wash or building stuff without approval.

There’s an old sea dog type who rows everywhere and has the words ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’ written on his oars. A Christmas dog race started by two ferry drivers arguing who was fastest, back in 1974.

It sometimes has the quality of a gothic 70s Australian movie too, or what I imagine Pitcairn Island to be like – where you realise there’s only one type of business there because another business who tried it had their boat sunk!!! I don’t show that stuff in the book though. I wanted the book to have warmth.

Penny Gleen from the ferry service wanted to give one of her retiring drivers a local present – I sent her 6 photos, she got inspired to make a book! And so, we worked out how to make one… which makes it all sound so simple, but it wasn’t.

Photography Mentorship Program

What were the challenge(s) of creating the book? 

Never having made a book before! Suddenly I’m wondering – how do you market it, design it, print it, what paper stock, who is the audience, how do you make a bunch of photos cohesive into a 3d object with a narrative story?

Also – the balance of writing and images. What story are we telling? What images stay and tell the story, what darlings do we let go? How much do we describe, or leave up to the reader to work out? For instance, I realised that there was a bunch of local assumed knowledge that I needed to give context to. Anna Thomas, who designed it, would ask me – so, you say you want that photo of Manny on page 40, but who the fuck is Manny? I’m like – everyone knows who Manny is, what do you mean? Oh, okay. Not everyone lives on Pittwater already.

Tell us about your commercial practice, what work are you available for? 

It’s variations of business, personal and editorial photography.

Photo memoir, which might be related to family photography, but is actually much broader, anyone wanting to celebrate what they have.

I’m from a complicated family, so I want to see more visual representation of complexity and celebrate it, see it, accept it. I like Susan Sontag’s idea of whatever we photograph is a form of acceptance.  

It’s a quiet act of showing, not telling, that your mob and what you call home is so much more than is often shown in this area of photography. So, it could be your studio, your collection of fondue sets, your life with your dog, your lover, housemate, your mum, whoever and whatever makes up your life.

One of the best things someone said to me recently was “I didn’t think people like us got photos taken, I thought it was the realm of nuclear families”.

Business photography often turns into a collaboration. I like sitting down with people to work out what story they’re telling, who they’re talking to, what their personality is. Then we play – we might create video, create portraits in the studio or location, even create an exhibition as part of a festival as I did for a restaurant in Victoria.

I’m available for editorial work. Environmental portraits, photo essays, food, lifestyle. I recently photographed Akira Isogawa in his Marrickville studio for the Japan Times. The Art Director liked what I took so much that they featured a sliding banner of images rather than the two they usually include. At the risk of strumming my own guitar here, I had to feel happy about that!

I like showing what people bring. I’m very light on direction. Often people walk in with whatever they have, and it’s my job to keep that and get it down. That’s my favourite thing – getting the conditions and technical stuff right and then concentrating on the connection I have with the person and letting them be themselves.

What does 2020 hold in store for you? Goals, etc. What shall we watch out for?

Working on a long-term photo project of psychological landscape/portraits for a group show at Contact Sheet – so I’ll be forced to resolve it!!

I’m going to immerse myself at Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles.

Keep developing my portrait collaborations for clients

To view and purchase the book click here: