Maria Ionova-Gribina

Published on 01/11/14

© Maria Ionova-Gribina

“Fath­ers” is a visual per­form­ance by Rus­sian artist Maria Ionova-Gribina that explores how Rus­sian men identify them­selves through par­ent­ing. Child­less young men are invited to be pho­to­graphed without being informed about the theme. They are intro­duced to Maria’s chil­dren and asked how they would spend time with them as if they were their par­ent and to share their thoughts on fatherhood.

The idea came to Maria when her fel­low pho­to­grapher asked her to take his pic­ture for a self por­traits pro­ject. He asked Maria to make the pic­ture as per­sonal as pos­sible. Por­trait also had to reflect them both as artists. For Maria con­tem­por­ary por­trait is a lot about invest­ig­a­tion. It has to answer or rather raise some ques­tions. After think­ing about it for a while, she has decided to assign him a role of the father of her chil­dren. That’s how the pro­ject began. “We do know much more about mother-child rela­tions than we do about fath­ers”, Maria says ‚“how they inter­act with chil­dren, how that affects child­hood devel­op­ment and how it reflects on both men and chil­dren”. Research on fath­ers is a fas­cin­at­ing field of study, which cur­rently tends to raise far more ques­tions than it answers, but while couples share many of the con­cerns about hav­ing chil­dren men have their own dis­tinct worries.

Today, poten­tial fath­ers who are scared of com­mit­ment are the attrib­ute of mod­ern west­ern soci­ety. “Rus­sian men are more imma­ture than European men, for example”, Maria says. Stat­ist­ics do show that the aver­age mar­riage age in Rus­sia has increased by 3 years since 90’s. But is it because it takes more time for a man to grow into par­ent­ing or has Rus­sian insti­tute of mar­riage trans­formed into “west­ern model” with higher aver­age mar­riage age and less pre­ma­ture mar­riages? Maria let’s a viewer decide by accom­pa­ny­ing the images with quotes of her subjects.

The resume she makes for her­self is that noth­ing is per­man­ent; she is abso­lutely sure that men who are scared of the idea of a child today could become great fath­ers in the future. «It’s also so much about love, the major­ity of men I pho­to­graphed said they were ready to marry a woman with kids from pre­vi­ous mar­riage if they were in love».
For the record, though divorced, Maria is not cur­rently look­ing for a father for Luka and Fiodor.

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