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 Romanova’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) “Perchance to Dream” at Andrea Meislin Gallery (New York, USA), “New Saint-Petersburg” 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 «Expert Photobook Review» 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 author’s ideas and intentions, to “read” 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.

«In a short movie by Claire Denis “Vers Nancy” 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 “friends”, our circle, thus meeting a stranger actualizes the identity of the community, our sense of belonging to a particular group of people.

I’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 don’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 “Welsh person”, and what is “Welsh identity”. 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 wasn’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 person».

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


Website

Jana Romanova
FotoDepartament