Snejana Barteneva was born in Germany, studied in Belarus, Russia, and France, and currently lives between France and Belarus. All the places she discovered and the people she met had an impact on her artistic career and influenced her path. Barteneva creates photography, video installations, and multimedia art. She has a roundabout body of work, awarded with prestigious awards and appreciated by advertisers and fashion brands. The artist believes in a continuous exploration of the present and transforms her reality into artworks.
You have studied in Belarus, Moscow, and France. Which of these places had the most significant impact on you?
If it weren’t for Belarus, I wouldn’t have received an academic education and wouldn’t have learned manual photo development technology. If it weren’t for the Academy of Photography in Moscow, I wouldn’t have acquired the ability to make something meaningful out of a shot. My desires led me to France, to the Studio National Des Art Contemporains (Le Fresnoy), where I learned to translate my thoughts and philosophy into the language of images.
What got you excited about photography? What were your first experiences behind a camera?
Since childhood, my mother and grandmother were encouraging my passion for art. When I was 15, I realized that I wanted to get into the world of photography for the rest of my life. I attended many exhibitions in Moscow, and when I looked at the photographs of Peter Lindbergh, Sarah Moon, Eni Leibovitz, and my heart skipped a beat every time. The world of photography was calling me.
My first experience behind the camera was for a commercial publication, where I was shooting the society column’s content. Later I created advertising concepts and fashion shoots for big brands. I also liked to create looks and decorations, to choose a location.
My work involved all photoproduction processes, where I was both a photographer and an art director.
How would you describe your current style and aesthetic? What was the process like, finding your voice as a visual artist?
Today I work as a contemporary artist expressing myself in the fields of photography, video installations, and multimedia art. My works combine philosophical analysis, personal feelings, and the use of new technologies.
My photo and video installations employ codes where the body of the individual is the decoder. It is through matter-body the link and dialogue with the beholder deploys.
The process of finding and exploring the present is endless. It is the most beautiful thing in art and life. Every day I take reality into myself, analyze it, transform, and then create my artworks. The main characters in my works are women.
How do you develop a creative idea? Are you planning your creative process or simply go with the flow?
My ideas develop according to 2 scenarios. For example, I work on the idea first: research it, make sketches, and then start production. Or it all begins with a suddenly invented image, and then I think about the topic. When the creative process ends, everything goes according to a specific plan. You search for a team and location, create the main character and their look, place the lights, set the color scheme, estimate the budget, etc.
There are few accidents in my work. Improvisation can arise only at the stage of creating an idea or on the set, when I’m working with a character, and where my task is to express the idea, to help the person stay in character.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on several projects. One of them is a photo project; the other is a project with a video installation. My research topic remains to be a woman, where matter and the object represent an image-action that issues a conversation between the artwork and the viewer.
What has been your most rewarding project creative- or business-wise thus far, and why?
These are the works that I created in France, with the participation of Le Fresnoy, Studio National Des Art Contemporains: рhoto installation Mélancolie, video installation Un Elémént. These works were published in books, one of which is in the library of Stanford University. Today, the video installation Un Elémént is exhibited in Chengdu Contemporary Image Museum, Chengdu, China.
I am very proud to meet Alain Fleischer, a brilliant photographer, writer, philosopher, and director of le Fresnoy. I am also very grateful to him for allowing me to come from Belarus to France and study.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The most important thing is not to be afraid to experiment, to follow your dreams, and try yourself in different styles and directions! Obtain a visual experience by observing, watching, and attending as many exhibitions and movies as possible and being observant in everyday life. Get inspired by the work of your colleagues and shape your vision.
Into written by Monica Radulescu