Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko and Ting-yi Lai met at a time of transition in both of their lives. “We came to London to pursue our respective dreams: her to study art psychotherapy and me photography,” Gueorgui tells It’s Nice That. “We met at a point in our lives where we were making major commitments to our personal development, and connected deeply on that foundation.”
Now married, the couple’s first collaboration Where the Story Begins captures the vulnerability and complexity of building a life together in a country they haven’t always called home. “She is from Taiwan and I am from Russia but grew up in Paris, and we live in London,” says Gueorgui. “We are foreigners both to each other and to the city we reside in. Throughout our relationship, and even more so now at the beginning of our marriage, we are hand-in-hand in a quest to find common ground – between ourselves, our families, our histories, and our adopted country going through a turbulent time in its history. This series is part of an ongoing project documenting this quest, and the joys and frictions that come with it: a project for a lifetime together.”
Where the Story Begins initially emerged as a personal way for the couple to better understand these frictions. “Photography was a way to step back and look at each other and try to understand each other better as well as to communicate our love for each other,” they muse. Over time this practice, which began as the casual documentation of their lives, developed into a daily ritual, and eventually a formal photographic project.
Already shooting exclusively on 35mm film, when this formalisation happened Gueorgui and Ting-yi decided to stick with the medium. “It suited our purpose well; we could stay in the moment while photographing, and look at the pictures later,” the duo explain. “The unpredictability of the process felt like an additional advantage, as a sort of mirror for the experience of living.”
Honest, intimate and quietly beautiful, the tenderness and empathy of Gueorgui and Ting-yi’s dual gaze is palpable in Where the Story Begins. The emotional weight of creating the series allowed the pair to understand one another more deeply as it progressed. “Being so close to someone in an intimate relationship unavoidably brings back to the surface all kinds of past traumas, which can be overwhelming at times,” they reflect. “Photography has allowed us to take a step back from these moments because when we return to the pictures later, we are reminded that love is always there.”
These developments fed back into the images, changing Gueorgui and Ting-yi’s approach to the project as time went on. Reflecting on the details of this process, they say: “When we first started taking pictures in our shared life, we were both photographing each other straight on, with little room for anything else. Over the course of the project, our attention has shifted to the things ‘in-between’: more than trying to understand the other person, we’re trying to understand our relationship and the dynamic between us. So now our gaze also settles on places, objects, families, and photographs that are more consciously created rather than simply caught.”
Mirroring Gueorgui and Ting-yi’s relationship as it always has, Where the Story Begins will continue to unfold for years to come. “We are at the very beginning of our marriage and of our shared journey through life,” they tell us. “As we experience more new things together, we will inevitably change and grow in ways we can’t anticipate, and we expect the series will grow with us as it progresses.”
About the Author
Lorna Pittaway joined us in the summer of 2019 as an editorial assistant. She graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a degree in graphic design and wrote stories for us on graphic design, film, art and everything in between.