Making art is never easy. It takes courage, stamina and patience in even the most rewarding and generous environments. Few of us can even consider the tenacity needed to continue to celebrate the continuing importance of art in times of national crisis - in times of war. But Sofiya Loriashvili, in her raw, boundary pushing photography and writing, continues to do just that.
Currently based in Paris but hailing from Ukraine, Loriashvili released a Zine in 2022 entitled My Last Voyage in This Fucking World, a collection of photographs and recollections taken before the Russian invasion, with proceeds going to support those in Ukraine. Having taken a trip back to Ukraine, Loriashvili is working on the follow up part of their project now, collating the experience of conflict from the lives of everyday civilians; companions, strangers and artists.

When I first encountered the works of Sofiya Loriashvili, I felt I had stumbled into a world in which everything could be shared with me, every intimacy, every secret, where gestures and glances which before were obscure could become searingly clear. Her photography, often using her friends as their main subject, has a shockingly bold quality. These are pictures of refugee spaces, unmade beds, squashed cigarettes and damp tiles; bodies, sometimes clothed, often not, sprawled or curled or daringly erect, portraits where we feel as if we, too, are the closest of friends with their subjects, after only regarding the angle of the jaw or the curve of a hip. It is work to make you feel alive in ways you thought you couldn’t previously. Loriashvili’s photography is testament to the indispensability of art, not just that it continues to matter in times of danger or uncertainty, but that it is in these times that we need it more than ever.

Loriashvili will be crowdfunding for the second collection in the series; details of how to donate to the fund can be found on her website and socials. Proceeds from the book will go to charities supporting those affected by the continued conflict in Ukraine.
Sofiya Loriashvili 2.jpg
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, Sofiya, it means a huge deal. Firstly, how are you doing right now? I understand you’re studying in Paris at the moment, but your family is still residing in Ukraine.
Yes, actually it’s a strange feeling of absence of feelings. In 2020, one very close person to me died. And I felt nothing until I realised what really happened this year. But I noticed that from the beginning of the war I've been texting my family more and more.
Could you tell us about your publication My Last Voyage in This Fucking World, and how it came into being?
In 2021 I was struggling with several problems due to addiction and I decided that after a detox I’d go back home to Ukraine to take some time for myself.
In this period I met a guy on Instagram, Malek, we followed and enjoyed each other's works. With some of his friends they had a project for a short film, for which they were searching for a model who would agree to be nude and shave herself in front of a camera. I agreed and invited them to come spend a few days at my place in Kyiv (they were from Kharkiv).
That's where our friendship started and the beginning of my book and documentation of this Ukrainian group of artists. Then the war started and I decided to regroup all the pictures in a book. No one knows what’s gonna happen. At this point I didn’t know if I would be able to come home again. Or would I meet them another time?
I feel your work is drawn to edges and peripherals, where life is lived outside the boundaries of the mainstream or expected – what draws you to this kind of subject matter in your photography?
I tend to forget a lot of things and my past years feel to me like one big blurry day, like for aged people. The idea was to make a photo album with writings to have a precise structure of this period which I could look at again and again and never forget.
I do a lot of documentation which means for me that I’m photographing and writing about the casual, mainstream, mundane. What I photograph is the reality for a lot of people.
In one of the written passages, you use to accompany the photography, you describe the police asking you to delete the photos you’d taken after trespassing on private property, with the one included in the zine the only one you had left from the experience. Do you often find the backstory to your photography often has a transgressive or resistant character, which is just as important as the photos themselves?
One day we were preparing an exhibition with one of my close friends and his team. And they wrote a short bio about me and my work, which I hated (the bio). I told them that I looked like a rebel teenager artist. After that he answered me that I am. And that’s probably true even if it sounds negative to me.
The struggle of growing up, being an adult, understanding what the actual fuck are you doing, why and where - all those things I’m writing about are based on my own experience but they are not about my own self but more about others. I often receive messages from people telling me that they identify with what I’m writing, and that’s the point.
Sofiya Loriashvili 11.jpg
You often have a very special relationship with the people in your photographs, in that they’re usually your friends. How do they feel being a part of your work?
The more we are close to each other the more we feel comfortable and act true - the better the picture is. I’m always afraid to bother people with my camera but Malik, Ilya, Aleksei, Sonya (the main characters of my book) felt very comfortable with it.
Malik told me this August that he really loved the way I can just enter someone’s life and document it. It was a relief when he told me.
It’s clearly a very intimate process for you. Yet, do you think photography is, or can be, innately political? Or does it simply take on different values depending on specific contexts?
Everything is political even if you don't know or want to.
A few years ago I barely knew who the president of my country was. And I would’ve never said that my work had a political part. But that’s because I couldn’t put the right words into what I’m doing. It was only about feeling and emotions. But they all have a sense, you just need time and experience to understand them, then you’ll understand your work and the political part in it.
You recently wrote an article for VICE about your recent experience in a Ukrainian art-space-turned-refuge called ReZavod, which was accompanied by your photography. Only if you’re comfortable sharing, what was it like going to Ukraine in wartime, and documenting this experience through photography? As I understand, you hadn’t been to Ukraine since 2021, when you shot the photos for My Last Voyage in This Fucking World.
It was a very strange experience. I stayed in mostly safe places at this moment; Lviv, Kyiv. And I was happy to be home but on the other side a lot of things changed, and there was a very rough atmosphere. What struck me was my fathers face the first time I saw him, from the moment he had to enter the army.
Sofiya Loriashvili 20.jpg
In your dispatch from ReZavod, you write of how “exhibitions and paintings are of little interest in wartime,” and of how Ukrainian artists whose only source of income is their art are currently struggling. Are you happy to expand on your thoughts on this idea, on the value of art and creativity in times of crisis or conflict?
I think that people do need art but people don’t buy art. I'm talking about what I heard and what I saw. What I am trying to say is that war has an impact on all spheres of life, including those of artists. Besides the psychological aspect, there is the financial aspect.The people I know live most of the time from their art. In times of war it is more complicated to sell, when you are a man it is also more complicated to show your works outside Ukraine.
You can of course find yourself a job that will take you all day and with which you will earn almost nothing. I met a man in the ReZavod. He was a fairly famous dancer. Following an illness that confined him to bed, he lost his job. Since he works from 7am until late at night in a factory, his salary does not allow him to pay for his treatment. His work, due to the physical dimension, worsens his health. So yes, of course, in complicated times, art is more necessary than ever, it is an outlet or a way to share the experience. But the reality for most artists is quite different.
How can people best support artists in Ukraine at the moment?
Share their work, buy art.
What have you been working on at present?
I'm working on the second part of the book, as I was in Ukraine this summer. I’m also always interested in and working on the theme of addiction.
Finally, are there any artists or fellow photographers whose work you enjoy you feel deserves more attention? What draws you to them?
I think all the people that are in my book are artists, I do truly love their work, Kadimalekk, Illyaskubak and Mmshtlr.
Sofiya Loriashvili 12.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 22.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 1.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 5.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 6.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 7.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 9.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 10.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 13.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 14.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 15.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 16.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 4.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 8.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 17.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 19.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 21.jpg
Sofiya Loriashvili 18.jpg