Jana Romanova was born in 1984 in Russia, and got a degree in journalism from Saint-Petersburg State University. At the moment she works with photography and video to talk about ideas of community and collective identity, focusing mainly on the territory of post-Soviet countries. She works with her subjects as collaborators, using different methods of participatory art, and challenges herself with experiments, where she tries to become a part of different communities, question her own identity and explore different roles photography plays in our society.
Jana Romanovaâ€™s long-term documentary projects were selected for a number of international exhibitions and festivals such as Moscow Photobiennale 2016 (Russia), Encontros da Imagem (Braga, Portugal), the Backlight Festival (Tampere, Finland), Encuentros Abietros Festival (Buenos Aires, Argentina) â€œPerchance to Dreamâ€ at Andrea Meislin Gallery (New York, USA), â€œNew Saint-Petersburgâ€ at Nieuw Dakota Gallery (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), etc. She got several prizes and honorable mentions in photography all over the world.
Jana Romanova is a co-founder of Â«Expert Photobook ReviewÂ» project, a youtube channel that offers an alternative look on photobook reviews, inviting experts from various fields and industries, not related to photography, but connected with authorâ€™s ideas and intentions, to â€œreadâ€ the photobook and review it from their professional point of view.
Jana Romanova. Adopted Welsh
Traveling across Wales - a territory in Great Britain, whose people have been struggling for their identity ever since they lost their independence in the Middle Ages - Russian artist Jana Romanova experimented with her own identity and tried to become Welsh, following advice from local people.
Â«In a short movie by Claire Denis â€œVers Nancyâ€ French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy suggests that the existence of the other - the foreigner - can be considered as a condition to our group identity. It gives us the possibility to feel a bond with our â€œfriendsâ€, our circle, thus meeting a stranger actualizes the identity of the community, our sense of belonging to a particular group of people.
Iâ€™ve always been interested in how these kind of mechanisms work on a national level, taking into account contemporary situation in the world and especially in Russia, where the search for national identity has become a very big issue during the last couple of years. This search made a lot of people reconsider their political position, lead to a lot of arguments even inside families and even pushed some people who donâ€™t accept the new course of things, to try immigrating in order to find another country and collective identity to be accepted by.
Being Russian - a foreigner in Wales - I started a series of one-to-on conversations with different people who consider themselves Welsh, asking them to describe what it is to be a â€œWelsh personâ€, and what is â€œWelsh identityâ€. In the end I asked them if they thought I could also become Welsh.
Out of almost 50 interviews in different parts of Wales, I only got one negative answer, while everybody else provided me with different recommendations on becoming Welsh - not just on paper, but from inside your heart.
This practice - an attempt to change nationality from inside more than from outside - gave lots of surprising results, the main one being that my own identity as a Russian started to play an important part - for instance when suddenly I wasnâ€™t able to read old Russian lyrics for a Welsh choir, or when I suffered from having to sit with my head uncovered in a church and many other situations which, being presented all together, speak about the identity both of a community and a single personÂ».
This project is a first part of a bigger project Romanova is going to produce in several other countries and places where the struggle for identity is a big issue due to the historical and political circumstances.Adopted Welsh was developed during a residency with Ffotogallery, Wales, as part of the EU Culture funded European Prospects project.
This project includes both photographs and a series of video works. You can watch of these video chapters via this link