LoosenArt Mag / Gallery

Polina Teif

Posted on March 11 2019

Polina´s photographic and video production is the result of deep research, long observations and, most of all, action - or “active witnessing”, as she stated..



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When I am present in a land that has a significant an ongoing history of occupation, war and environmental destruction, my presence can either support or negate the powers which govern it and I choose to do so through the means of photography and visual storytelling. - P. T.

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Freelance photographer and independent videomaker, Polina Teif is originally from Belarus and is currently based in Toronto, Canada, where she pursued and completed her higher education. Her professional career as visual artist, mainly centred on ecologic themes, besides her brilliant eye reveals also her profound interest and respect towards nature.

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Polina´s photographic and video production is the result of deep research, long observations and, most of all, action - or “active witnessing”, as she stated. This is shown, for example, in one of the most recent series she has been working on, entitled “Eulogy for the Dead Sea”. Here, through pictures and videos, she reports the natural and environmental decadence of the area surrounding the Dead Sea. Overall, this can be considered as a sort of manifesto, a statement of her work examining geography, landscape, politics and people, and their mutual interactions through time and space.
Artist published on several magazines, she has been invited to participate in several talks, artistic residencies as well as exhibitions and screenings.

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Author Silvia Colombo

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L.A.: Polina can you tell us a little about your personal project Eulogy for the Dead Sea? What led to this project?
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Polina Teif: I started visit the Dead Sea more frequently after a severe eczema outbreak and through subsequent visits I began exploring abandoned buildings I would notice on the drive down. I became somewhat obsessed with the story of the Dead Sea which is now rapidly receding at a rate of 1.3m annually and causing massive sinkholes to appear all around it. Many of the sites I visited marked the former shores of the lake and a story began to emerge about its decline. The water of the Dead Sea is very healing place and people go there to cure ailments and expedite healing but now its the Dead Sea itself that needs help. Little is done politically to remedy the environmental disaster that is developing in the region. This is the reason why I keep going back to photograph it and surrounding are in an attempt to raise awareness and preserve the well being of this unique lake.
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L.A.: How do you think photography/visual arts can be used to drive social change?
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Polina Teif: I do, very much so. There is a difference between witnessing an event and being an active witness. For me the difference is in action, what an action is or does can mean different things to different people. When I am present in a land that has a significant an ongoing history of occupation, war and environmental destruction, my presence can either support or negate the powers which govern it and I choose to do so through the means of photography and visual storytelling. Images can act subtly, they can tell stories, act as documents, they can expose and their meaning can change over time as the context in which they exist changes. The power of an image lies in its ability to evoke, inspire, make change, and permeate our minds. An image can incite us to want to learn more and understand a subject on a deeper level. Most importantly, it can evoke our empathy. An image is understood through the context in which its presented so to find a space where it can act in a way that is aligned with my political and social views is key. Sometimes the story I hold of a person or a place dictates what I choose to photograph, but there are times where I explore a subject and the story comes through the things I witness, and as an active witness I need to capture it, understand it, contextualize it and share it with the world. I see that as my service and duty in a sense. The mere fact of being able to say “I witnessed this, I documented it and it is in fact happening” can go a long way. If we think of how much advertising images can effect our behaviour when it comes to consumption, why not practice photography in order to make social change. Photography is a powerful tool.
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Polina Teif, Bauhaus Visitor Centre│ Buy it
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L.A.: Do you have a favorite shot in this series? If so, which one and why?
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Polina Teif: The image titled Pylon Island in the Dead Sea is my favourite shot in the series. There is something very eerie about it. I shot it after a squatting overnight in an abandoned building near the Dead Sea (the Bauhaus Visitor Centre), the day was overcast and the lighting was very flat, I was very thirsty and walked over to the more populated hotel area to wash up and get water, that’s when I stumbled upon this scene. A stoke of luck. This image is telling of what is happening to the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea, the manmade structure on an island demonstrates how shallow the evaporation pools are in the Southern section of the Dead Sea are, really just two meters deep at most.
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L.A.: Is there any photographer that inspired you more than others?
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Polina Teif: Lynne Cohen, the late Canadian photographer who is known for her large format photographs of interiors was and continues to be my most significant inspiration when it comes to photography. I was introduced to her work at age fifteen through a photography class in my high school in Israel. After moving to Toronto, I got to see her work in person for the first time which is a moving experience for me. Her prints are impeccable but what I really took from her work is the ability to evoke so much from an “empty” space. Empty of people but not of stories, and the viewer can really participate in piecing these stories together using their imagination. She was a true photography master.
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L.A.: What inspired you to study art/photography?
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Polina Teif: I’ve always gravitated towards cameras and my mother would often indulge me by buying me disposable cameras in the 90’s. I used those images to put together a little portfolio and was accepted to study photography at an arts high school. That was really the starting point to what has now become my vocation. I went on to do my bachelors in visual studies and a masters in documentary film. What keeps me going and continues to inspire me are my mentors and fellow artists. I found a strong sense of community in the arts and I the freedom art gives me to experiment and create meaning from the world in which we live.
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Polina Teif, Pylon Island │ Buy it
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Polina Teif, Bauhaus Hostel │ Buy it
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L.A.: Did you ever consider any other professions?
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Polina Teif: I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I’ve always known that I wanted to shoot. Nowadays I work in both photography and film/video. Coming into the moving image from an extensive background in photography definitely gives my work a certain tone and style. A lot of my work is very slow and meditative and I think it comes from the joy of selecting and composing a perfect scene and allowing the eyes rest in it. I find that my practice can develop in both media simultaneously and they often compliment one another. As long as I am shooting and creating, I am fulfilled.
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L.A.: What are your future plans/projects or aspirations?
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Polina Teif: I am currently working on developing Eulogy for the Dead Sea into a meditative documentary film. I am also working on a photo book titled NOWHERE, which is a photo series that seeks to discover continuity in displacement. A travel log of longing for a home, a search for it through national terrains and political geographies through my personal experience of displacement, migration and assimilation. Photography became the means through which I am able to understand place and my relationship to it, a fragmented life becomes a whole through the means of seriality, recognized in retrospect. I hope to continue taking photographs and making films for as long as I am alive.
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Polina Teif, Subtle Waves │ Buy it
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Polina Teif, Butterflies │ Buy it
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Eulogy for the Dead Sea series
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BUY IT NOW View Polina Teif on Gallery
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Polina Teif
 http://www.polinateif.com
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