The Price Of A Black Life In America

An outsider reflects, through collage, on race in the United States

by Ikran Abdille

Ukrainian photographer, Ina Lounguine is part of Live Wild, an online collective of female artists and photographers who are sticking collage at the centre of the cultural map and the socio-cultural debate. Ina’s work employs visual metaphors, layering and defacement to push urgent talk on issues such as racism and gun violence.

Ina’s current work The Price of a Black Life in America began when she spent a few months in the United States. At that time, Michael Brown in Ferguson was shot dead by a police officer and protests broke out across the nation. Here, Ina talks about her choice of tools, the project’s origins and where she hopes to go next with her practice.

Q & A

How and when did you become a photographer?

I recently graduated from school with a master in Aesthetics + Culture. I did a little bit of photography during high-school but didn’t study it. Slowly, I leaned towards photography because it made sense for this project though in the future I won’t be working with photography exclusively. I’d like to work on performances especially since I want my work to bring up political and social debate so it would be nice to have a live audience.

I see myself as a visual artist more than a photographer. For The Price Of A Black Life In America I worked with photography because it’s an efficient medium and photography always seems to be the visual “proof” of something.

Why did you choose this topic?

I visited the U.S. between Ferguson and Baltimore events. Tensions were high and nothing was done. It was silently witnessing an incredible social and human injustice and I felt like I should do something to exorcize the pain and the guilt I was feeling.

Is sharing your experiences and thoughts about your race and identity important within your practice?

I have rarely been in a country where racism was so obvious and tolerated. The news keeps repeating itself and innocent black lives are taken away without a blink from the government. How can a country be shaped so much by racism and be led by a black president? This kind of American paradox is beyond my comprehension.

Tell me more about your concept for the photo project? How did it start? Where is it going next?

I bought a frame at a thrift store and brought it back home with the price tag still on the glass. I put a picture that I had found in it, a picture of a black kid. Once in the frame it became incredibly clear and I left the price tag on the glass, as if it was put on purpose on the kid’s face. I thought it was a very powerful image and I came up with the title. From there I decided to keep working with photos and modify them or use them in situations I would arrange. To me this project is still an ongoing work and I’ll try to produce more images this year.

What motivates you to create art?

I feel like being *an artist* has always meant being a voice. Underneath technics, movements and aesthetics some of us have to express an idea, break a rule, fight oppression. Art has always been a powerful tool through the ages. Today, social inequalities are getting bigger and bigger everyday, the gap between rich and poor across the world is insane and it is seems to be a hot topic no one wants to talk about. Witnessing racism, or discrimination of all sorts in 2016 is just pushing my buttons, I can’t wrap my head around many things we are living right now.

“I’d rather ‘The Price Of A Black Life In America’ be online with a timeless worldwide audience. I’m not really interested in photography exhibitions.” — Loughine.

How and why did you form the Live Wild collective?

Live Wild was formed during the summer 2014 by photographers Camille Lévêque, Anna Hahoutoff and Lila Khosrovian. They decided to include collagists Charlotte Fos, Marguerite Horay, Lucie Khahoutian and myself in order to create a multi-medium space where collages and photography coexist. I guess my practice is right in the between, finding its place between collages and photography.

We’ve all known each other for a long time. Charlotte and Marguerite are quite new but the rest of us are either close friends or relatives. We’re all quite young and just finishing school. The Price Of A Black Life In America is the first consistent project I’m publishing so it’s nice to have a platform to put some light on it. It’s a team effort and we grow bigger individually and as a group. It is a burden and an inspiration. We have various group projects coming up and all participated in elaborating the website.

What and who inspires you in your life and work?

The girls from Live Wild obviously! My friends, my family. I come from a family of social activists and intellectuals, so I’ve had the chance to travel a lot, meet inspirational persons and have been raised with curiosity and awareness.

Discovering new countries, new cultures is a great inspiration. Ai Weiwei is a big inspiration right now, he is acting fast and bold and striking every time. He is using his fame to trigger discussion and awareness and I admire him for that. I hope to have an impact with my work one day, and have the talent to bring up such delicate issues. I definitely would like to work on what is now called “the migrant situation” between Europe and the Middle-East it has been on my mind for quite some time but it is a delicate subject so I am giving it time to mature.

What advice would you give to other visual art photographers?

Surround yourself by friends and fellow artists. Work hard on concepts and ways to bring up the content. Then work harder. I’m just getting started but it sure seems to be a ruthless scene in which you definitely need connections (sadly more than talent).

Once you’re established only focus on work that matters, on social issues, on things you want to see get better. We are lucky enough to have a voice we shouldn’t be speechless.

Do you have particular favourites?

Thomas Albdorf, Moises Saman, Christian Boltanski and Maurizio Cattelan. Ai Weiwei as mentioned earlier

Do you hope to exhibit these works?

Not really actually, I’d rather have it online with a timeless worldwide audience. I’m not really interested in photography exhibitions.

What is the next step for your practice? Where do you hope to take the work?

Performances! I hope to work on a performance this year, probably in Europe. Ideally, I would like to perform in a random space (not a gallery), film it and them have the video online on the website. I really want my work to be accessible for everyone everywhere; my number one platform will always be the Internet whether it is for photography, recordings, performances. It has to be online.

Follow the The Price Of A Black Life In America project. Keep up with The Live Wild Collective on Tumblr.

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine.