Fuelled by loneliness, longing and Google translate, this photographer documents a long distance love affair with a boy whom she doesn’t share a common language
In her work, New York-based photographer and director Nadia Bedzhanova explores contemporary youth: the way we kill time and fall in love, communicate online and offline, the way we feel about ourselves and the rapidly changing world. Her new series Hotel Love is a study of the sense of self and digital sensuality on the constant move. But unlike her recent crash course in intimacy for the digital generation, this time it was not as much about others but about her own very private story.
In 2015 Bedzhanova was working on a big project that involved a lot of travelling in Europe, Mexico and the Ukraine. Spending every night in a hotel, she found herself in the midst of a distant love affair with a boy she met in Paris during the filming Wasteland. They hadn’t seen each other for months and didn’t share a common language, yet they kept exchanging awkwardly translated messages and photos with one-another. That fragile connection with another person via laptop or phone screen is something we’ve all been through, in some scope or size.
“The theme of an e-generation with their e-relationships interests me a lot. Time and space shrinks, you feel that the person across the ocean is closer to you than a person who is right next to you” – Nadia Bedzhanova
“I think digital intimacy, "flirxting" and nudes, hold a major place in communication these days. It often turns us on even more than actual flirting and dates”, says Bedzhanova. “And with all these stickers, emojis and GIFs... Especially if you don't speak the same language, I mean, it doesn't happen often, but in this case I can hardly imagine how much time would we spend explaining thoughts to each other in person. The theme of an e-generation with their e-relationships interests me a lot. Time and space shrinks, you feel that the person across the ocean is closer to you than a person who is right next to you”.
Hotel Love is mostly shot on an iPhone and wasn’t even meant to be an art project – just a personal documentation of emerging feelings and pictures meant for a midnight chat. At the same time, it’s the perfect documentation of the hotel space; both lonely and sexually charged, intimate and completely detached. An empty bed and dimly lit interiors become the expression of longing for someone.
Another topic Bedzhanova touches upon in the series is her generation’s obsession with selfies. Luckily she has enough self-irony to handle it well. “I'm always very insecure about exposing my appearance online”, she says. “I do find it silly to constantly publish images of your face. I spent quite a while thinking if I should do this project or not, sometimes I still think that it was a bad idea. But I have got enough self-irony to do it, especially with all these screenshots of translations from different languages, that maintains one of the themes in my work and life – international unification of youth, e-generation in action”.