"Photography is really alienating," say Toronto-based photographer Kyler Zeleny. "There's no camaraderie between image makers. We talk, we network, but are we actually little balls of energy that are against each other?" These are the main concerns that face Zeleny in his work: How do we challenge ourselves and grow in such an individualistic craft? How can we work together?
That's why he began a project which he calls Georgia Georgia to experiment with what a photo assignment would look like when it's made by more than one person. Working in collaboration with Barcelona-based, Russian photographer Yanina Shevchenko, who Zeleny met in graduate school at Goldsmiths, University of London, the two created a series shot in both Georgia the country and the U.S. state of the same name.
"The challenge was to take two completely different places and try to pair them together," Zeleny says. Since they couldn't travel at the same time, first, Zeleny asked Shevchenko to focus on nature, landscape, and people. She photographed for five days, and then Zeleny took her photographs and made notes on some key elements, such as "girl in a polka dot dress in the shadow of a mountain" or "man at the beach."
"We are also trying to push people to hang around an image for just that one second longer to think about where it was taken, to challenge their sense of place."
When he made his six day trip, he tried to find visual connections to the work Shevchenko had already made. The result was not a mirror image—that was not the goal—but rather a challenge to both the photographer and the viewer: "It's a big emphasis on process versus outcome for us," Zeleny explains, "but we are also trying to push people to hang around an image for just that one second longer to think about where it was taken, to challenge their sense of place."
This might seem like an unusual endeavor, and coordinating the logistics certainly complicated things (Zeleny couldn't travel until a year after Shevchenko completed her half of the project), but for the photographers it was important to experiment. "I wanted to push myself into a corner that I wasn't used to being in, to work through a process that I wasn't used to," Zeleny says. The final product is a composite of their two practices, it's not distinct to either of their styles, and that was the emphasis.
Now, take part in the challenge: The following photos are unmarked save for Zeleny's notes. Do you know which Georgia they're from? How important is that, really?
Stylish Georgian men, dressed in red.
The cola wars.
Modern graveyards in the thickets of the wild.
Through the trees.
Activity on the waterfront.
The auto under the trees.
Men with sticks.
Old men and the beach.
Men at the beach.
Ladies in dresses.