Growing up in Tomsk, Russia, Lucy Parakhina found her family photo albums fascinating.
“I was always looking through them, almost obsessively. I loved looking at photos of times before I was born, and feeling a connection to the people and places in those images,” Parakhina says.
She was ten years old when her family moved to Sydney in 1997. She went on to study physiology and neuroscience at the University of Sydney, with Honours in Visual Perception.
After graduating, Parakhina was uncertain about her future. “I knew I didn’t want to keep going with science. So I started working at the Australian Centre for Photography.”
“I literally fell into photography. I started photographing gigs and exhibitions. Then I started getting paid for my work, and it just snowballed from there.”
Lucy moved to Hobart in 2015 to study photography at the Tasmanian College of the Arts.
“I’d like to think that my photography is connected to my previous study, because it’s about visual perception and how you see the world. But that’s more of a philosophical approach, rather than a nuts-and-bolts scientific approach.”
Lucy lives and works as a freelance photographer in Sydney and Hobart.
Along with her creative practice, she is the online producer at RealTime magazine, and a board member of local arts organisation Constance ARI.
Undertow: What drew you to photography?
LP: Initially, I was drawn to it as an observer of photographs. They have the ability to connect moments across time with an immediacy and vividness that, to me, nothing else can.
In terms of photography being a tool that I use, I am drawn to it because I feel it allows me to share my perspective and experience of the world in a way that I can’t express in words.
Lucy Parakhina, Death Valley 2016. Courtesy the artist.
What do you like most about your job?
Like most people in the creative industries right now, I have several jobs; all of which are equally important, and I feel they feed into and inform each other.
What I value and enjoy the most in all these roles is the variety and constant challenge. I feel like I am always figuring something out, learning something, doing something I’m not comfortable with, or don’t know how to do yet.
Funnily enough, this is also the thing I dislike most about my work when I do feel frustrated or stressed.
Lucy Parakhina, Mt Wellington 2016. Courtesy the artist.
What do you like most about being behind the camera?
It’s definitely a distancing tool. And for someone like me with a bit of social anxiety, it allows me to enter situations I might otherwise feel unsure about how to behave in. It gives me a role, a structure, and a way of engaging with the world around me.
I also love the way being behind a camera makes me present and focused, paying attention to things around me, and not taking them for granted.
What’s the hardest thing about being an artist?
Self-doubt. Especially with the low value placed on art in contemporary Australian culture.
Also, the practicalities of doing stuff unsupported — the cost of materials and time, and the need for storage and space. This is why I think having a strong sense of belonging to a community is extremely important.
How do you stay motivated?
My extreme anxiety about being able to pay rent and eat keeps me motivated. But also remembering that I’ve chosen this life, so I am ultimately responsible to myself. That’s quite motivating.
On a practical level, breaking things up into smaller chunks helps. And it gives you a sense of achievement once you’ve completed those chunks. And lists. Definitely lists.
What are some of your favourite procrastination pastimes?
1. Watching videos of ships in big waves on YouTube
In that order.
Lucy Parakhina, June 2011. Courtesy the artist.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Over the last month or so, I have been on a completely unstoppable, obsessive binge of Angel Olsen and Laura Marling. I think I’m at the point where I really need to take a break from listening to them.
I like music without words when I really need to focus on something, such as Max Richter. I also like this online radio station called The Lake Radio. It has a random stream of eclectic music and sound art.
What are you looking at or reading about at the moment?
I’m currently absorbed in watching the new Twin Peaks after binge re-watching the first two seasons. I also love Fargo and The Leftovers.
I’m not reading as much as I’d like to. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of things about migration, homes and housing; inspired by one of Constance ARI’s latest exhibitions House Show.
I’ve been reading everything on RealTime, Landscapes by John Berger, Ecosexts by Nadege Philippe-Janon and The Loneliness of Donald Trump by Rebecca Solnit.
Lucy Parakhina, Zzyzx 2017. Courtesy the artist
You’ve photographed a lot of people. Have you gleaned any sage wisdom about human behavior during this process?
Most people hate being photographed!