JJ Lorenzo photographs a generation “marked by the frictions between East and West” in Ukraine
Titled Borderland, the series combines portraiture and street photography to tell a story about the relationship between people and place.
- Ruby Boddington
- 5 May 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
JJ Lorenzo looks at photography holistically. “I’m convinced everything forms part of one single chain,” he tells It’s Nice That. “It starts with your intentions and the previous research you do before grabbing the camera. The way you read the light and how you take the photographs to the techniques and colour palette you use in the darkroom.” This well-rounded approach lends a distinct look to the Spanish, London-based photographer’s work, and is evident across his latest series, Borderland.
Much of JJ’s portfolio is lead by his interest in people, providing a solid basis for him to research a variety of topics, but also meaning that portraiture is a core element of his work. This is certainly the case in Borderland, a series he’s been working on since 2018 that documents the first generation of Ukrainians born and raised after the collapse of The Soviet Union.
“I am interested in photographing people and places from a sociological perspective,” JJ explains. What that means in Borderland is that he examines how this young generation has been moulded by what came before them and what exists around them. “I address the problem of boundaries and how it shapes people and places,” he adds. “How they face the present from the perspective of a digitally native person navigating through a conservative environment inherited from the previous generations, the influence of the internet on their day-by-day and of the Western world in their wish of a better future.”
The series bears all the hallmarks of JJ’s usual work, featuring majority portraits spliced among more street style photos. This harks back to his belief that photography is an amalgamation of a multitude of elements that cannot exist without each other. In turn, people and places coalesce in his work to paint the bigger picture; giving us more than they ever could in isolation. “I like the idea that portraiture, street photography and the atmosphere of a place can converse in harmony and be part of one narrative that tells a story,” he adds.
In Borderland, this combination of portraiture and street photography adds a pertinent undertone to the work. It expresses the intrinsic relationship between Ukraine’s borders and geography and its people. Reflecting on the series, JJ describes how the subjects of Borderland are “enthusiastically living in the present which is heavily marked by the frictions between East and West. This entails a relationship to their heritage and an optimistic approach to an uncertain future.” This sense of optimism is then only furthered by the warm orange hues that drench the photos.
Touching in his practice as a whole, JJ tells us it’s collaborating with creatives from other disciplines that he enjoys the most: “I like to work with other artists, the moment when different creatives meet is very unique and exciting.” He also keeps his options open when it comes to the kinds of projects he works on, enjoying “walking and taking photographs in the streets of Kharkiv” as much as he does a fashion story in the studio. Ultimately though, it’s photography’s ability to let him “jump outside and meet new people” that keeps him hooked, and he relishes the freedom that medium affords.
JJ Lorenzo: Boderland (Copyright © JJ Lorenzo, 2018)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.