A guide to the New East

Letters to myself: what does your family’s past say about your future?

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Some turn to family archives for comfort and reassurance, but for Russian photographer Ksenia Yurkova they felt more like a reminder of the inescapability of fate. Yurkova’s book Letters for Two, And No-One Else is based on letters to her mother from friends, parents and lovers written between the 1960s and 1980s. “Since childhood I’ve been very curious by nature. I’d peek into others’ envelopes. I was told off for doing it. I felt ashamed. I’m still ashamed, but not as often, and not as deeply.” The project consists of contemporary self-portraits by Yurkova matched with letters, archival photographs and small artefacts from the past. For Yurkova, assembling its elements meant overcoming the shame of being an intruder into her mother's past and coming to see herself, ultimately, as the sum of chance encounters and past relationships: “I’m a product of what others have invested in me. The authority of parents, the repetitiveness of high school, being in love with university lecturers. In my parents are their parents in turn, their love, and their blindness. And so on, into the depths. Every artefact from my ancestral tribe built me up. Each led to the unavoidability of my appearance. All of it came together in one point — in me.” 

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