Olga Volianska

PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2020 – Non-Professional
First Place Winner in Nature – Frozen Gardens

Delicate compositions of flowers frozen in water, evocative of the ephemeral and the ethereal, are captured in Olga Volianska’s enchanting images.

The Ukrainian photographer made the aptly titled ‘Frozen Gardens’ series during the Covid-19 lockdown this spring in her home in the coastal city of Odessa, Ukraine. The wilting flowers sometimes appearing blurry and indistinct, with air bubbles visible just beneath the surface, the series is suggestive of a desire to preserve something through photography and suspend time.

“You conceive something but flowers are active in the water and the freezing intervenes [with the composition],” Volianska, 45, says. “The position of the frozen flowers was always a surprise and gave me the feeling of holding a moment.”

Volianska’s husband had purchased the flowers from pensioners living nearby who had grown them in their gardens. Experimenting and improvising, Volianska aesthetically arranged them in the water, paying careful attention to color combinations, froze them and subsequently photographed them.

Completely unpredictable, the creative process was full of surprises. “I had to invent a whole kind of freezing technology as it was important that everything didn’t turn into a block of ice,” she explains. “An epiphany happened when I got the result and watching the remaining air bubbles was very exciting.”

An interior designer by trade, Volianska has the eye of a colorist and cites the Impressionists such as Auguste Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh as well as other artists including Vassily Kandinsky, Charles Conder and Cy Twombly among those who have influenced her.

Conceding that ‘Frozen Gardens’ is suggestive of the fragility of life and seems analogical to the Covid-19 pandemic, she says: “I think intuitively the general situation in the world influenced the series. When it became impossible to travel, I stopped wandering around in search of inspiration and focused on what was surrounding me and found in it even more beauty and sophistication.”

By Anna Sansom