Born in the USSR, photographer Olga Volodina originally studied journalism in Moscow while working as a model. From her experiences with professional photographers she became interested in photography—starting with portraits of friends, and continuing on to fashion shoots and nudes. Eventually her projects became more personal and conceptual. She and her husband decided to leave Russia after the birth of their daughter in 2008. Not wanting their child to grow up in Russia, the couple decided to relocate. They travelled for a couple of years before finally choosing Thailand as their new home, living at first on Koh Phangan until their daughter was ready for preschool, and settling in Bangkok in September of 2010. However, in May of 2016 the trio uprooted once again, this time settling for the artistic environs of Chiang Mai.
Why did you decide to leave Bangkok and move to Chiang Mai?
At some point, life in a megalopolis, with all its everyday stresses—traffic and pollution—made me feel really exhausted. I felt I needed to live closer to nature. I had heard a lot of good things about Chiang Mai from my friends. They described it as a green place with a really relaxed atmosphere, and it truly is. It gives me so much needed peace of mind. My daughter likes it here very much too. It’s a bit tough because my husband still works in Bangkok but, fortunately, local flights are not expensive so he comes to see us often.
Do you find yourself “inspired” by Chiang Mai?
That’s a difficult question. I’m not really looking for “inspiration”. It’s quite the opposite actually. I do my projects to clear my head of all my thoughts. But, on the other hand, if we define inspiration as a source of energy for the creative process, then I could say that Chiang Mai, with its laidback vibe, history, temples, and nature, is a great source. The slow-paced life here makes me slow down and reflect. I found my balance in Chiang Mai. It was really difficult for me to achieve this state in Bangkok with the constant noise inside/outside my head. So it’s more of a therapy than a search for some inspiration.
How many exhibitions have you had in Thailand so far?
I’ve had four exhibitions in Thailand, and I’m preparing for my fifth—entitled ‘Imaginarium’— in February 2017. I’m doing it with my good friend and curator Oya Aydin. It’s a study on human nature, the hypocrisy of the modern society, informational slavery, religion and politics, environmental issues, and controversial historical facts. It’s about all the stuff that is boiling in my head and bothering me.
Do you have a favourite place in Chiang Mai?
I like Somkiat Café. It’s a very cozy place with a vegetarian menu. Compared to Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a much more vegetarian and vegan-friendly place, which is really important for me. There is also a new place that I like a lot called the Chiang Mai Community House. It’s a space for different workshops and classes that also works as a photo studio and art gallery. It was opened by Thai photographer Wisamun Sitthiket and his wife Sarah.