NEW YORK, NY.- What is it to be a Russian woman today? In My Country Is Female, Gouzelle Ishmatova finds the strength of her homeland lies within its women. After moving to Western Europe at age twenty-five, Ishmatova began using photography as a tool to understand the places she left behind. In her decade-long project, her images began to reveal that Russias true inner strength revolves around female fortitude. Using images from her familys own archive, alongside documentary and staged imagery, the series reflects on Russian women of the past and while meditating on their future identities. For Ishmatova, Russia itself is a woman she is abused, she suffers, she struggles, she forgives, and she never gives up.
Introduction by Gouzelle Ishmatova:
I think of Russia as Her. She is abused, she suffers, she struggles, she forgives, and she never gives up. Strong women have been the backbone of my family for generations. Over the years, I have learned their stories and watched them build lives for themselves and their families in the face of political and social uncertainty, never wavering in their commitment to care. Through these women, I have come to understand that Russias true inner strength is based on female fortitude. In photographing my homeland, my eye always returns to its women: their faces, the spaces they occupy, their roles, and how they choose to present themselves. I begin my story with the oldest family member I knew personallyKortyi. She was born in 1903, when Nikolai II ruled the Russian Empire. She gave birth to her daughter in 1927, as Stalin came to power, and lost her husband in 1968 during Brezhnevs leadership. She died in 1997, when Yeltsin was president of the Russian Federation.
I am her great-granddaughter, and despite my happy upbringing in the USSR, I decided to build my life in Western Europe. When I moved at 25 years old, I faced countless stereotypes based on my identity as a Russian woman. This book is my attempt to explain to myself what is it to be a Russian woman todayand more importantly, ask the question: what future do women want for themselves? 20082021
Gouzelle Ishmatova is a Russian-born photographic artist based in Paris, France. Her practice is rooted in concepts of identity, and explores gender roles in society.
After moving to Western Europe, her visual storytelling expanded into areas of narrative series. Blending documentary work with staged imagery, Ishmatova also takes inspiration from her familys own visual archive, as well as research. Her work lives in the space between universal and lived experience, and is moti- vated by understanding and reflecting female eye and voice in her practice.
Committed to expanding her photographic education while cultivating her career in business, Ishmatova completed a series of photography short courses at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, in 2013. From 20182020, she also worked with JH Engstrom and Margot Wallard, developing her practice at the Atelier Smedsby Workshop. Ishmatova was selected as a Rencontres d'Arles Workshop Laureate during the Summer of 2017 for her multimedia series Beauty Will Save the World, which was also shortlisted for the LensCulture Art Photography Award in 2019.