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Maria is a barista at a DNO favorite – Mammoth Espresso. Only recently have we learned of her prolific creativity, though we wish we'd asked sooner. A Russian-American photographer and illustrator, Maria's PANS project is immediately intriguing, gifting the viewer a truly fresh perspective. We had the pleasure of speaking with Maria about her work, the PANS project, and of course, New Orleans.

Below the interview we've included some photos from a panorama she shot on Royal Street (can be fully viewed on her website).

What exactly is the PANS project?

The PANS project is a series of documentary panoramas that exist in the shadowy area between moving pictures and still photography. Each moment is captured with multiple exposures on 35mm film rolled through the eye of a 1970’s rangefinder camera. They are a rabble of visual information that illuminates and illustrates an occasion from many different perspectives and aim to capture the fragile visual moments one might only hold on to in memory.

What inspired this project?

This project was born partly out of an interest in old films and antiquated motion-picture making methods, partly of a desire to relinquish some artistic control to the film medium, and partly of an experiment in testing the potential creative freedoms that arise when one is faced with limitations. 

I’ve always had an interest in lantern slides, flip-books, stop-motion animations, Bell and Howell cameras, and avant-garde art films of the early 1900s. These things come from a world where motion graphics were still often cut and taped and drawn and sculpted by hand, which has always seemed more accessible, real, and vulnerable to me. When painting I prefer watercolor because, no matter how much control I want to have, I always at some point need to let go of the process and let the paint and paper take the lead. It is a similar story with film photography; there’s no LCD screen to check your work, but one must move on and hope for the best, or perhaps an even better, result.  My father used to develop film in a tiny closet in a tiny Soviet apartment in Moscow. When he gifted me this camera I decided to pursue photography using the instrument itself as my limitation.

What else have you worked on recently?

In 2016 I exhibited several rolls of panoramas taken the previous year at La Guarimba Film Festival (Calabria, Italy) in La Grotta, the festival grounds. Working with a local architecture firm, Amor Vacui, we developed an outdoor, larger-than-life lantern box display for these long photographs. It was immersive, interactive, and open to all, conveying the festival’s message of bringing art to the people and people to the art. To me it seemed like photography under the influence of cinema, or vice versa. 

This year I’ve taken to printing these panoramas out and creating “crankies”, or movable slideshows in physical boxes that resemble a primitive camera interior with two spools. One cranks, or turns, the spools left or right to move through the story; some are illuminated from the back and incorporate music.  These boxes, more than anything, encapsulate the multitude of interests and skills I’ve accumulated along a very rambling life path.

What inspires you most about New Orleans?

I fell in love with New Orleans immediately. It seemed to harbor a piece of every part of the world to which I'd traveled; a smell will be reminiscent of Moscow, a glance will take me back to Greece, or a street will look just like that one in Virginia. It is the closest thing to a settled home for me because the city seems at the same time incredibly familiar and exhilaratingly foreign.

You can view more of Maria's work on her website.

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