Nadezhda Ermakova’s latest book is an intimate and fantastical story based on her son’s dreams of becoming a bird

Reading Period: 2 minutes

Moved simply by her son’s recollection of his dreams, in the girl latest photobook Ermakova illustrates a story about a boy and his friend who transform into birds

Nadezhda Ermakova ’s A typical Story takes her romantic relationship with her son Fedor, and his relationship with wildlife – more specifically wild birds – as its premise. The concept for the book was spurred one winter, after she was inspired to shoot a video in Fedor’s room for the home archives. “He began to tell me word-for-word about his dreams, ” the lady says. “We lay on the ground and looked up, and at some point I realised what he was informing me. All his dreams were about birds. Every dream was a continuation of the previous… I was stunned. ”

An Ordinary Story, the particular winner of this year’s PERSONAL PUBLISH RIGA photobook dummy award, is based on this swap: a simple yet insightful discussion between mother and kid. In the book, Fedor recounts their dreams, taking the reader through a fantastical narrative revolving in regards to boy and his friend who also, after transforming into parrots, travel across Russia going to cafes and relatives. There is a magic realism to the tale that is at once earthly plus surreal. We follow the pair as they gather their materials possessions, find food to eat, defend themselves against archenemys and rockets, and befriend a mysterious snowy owl.  

The text sits alongside images of Fedor acting out his dreams, distributing his arms as he runs through fields of long grass. The subtle beauty of the surrounding countryside and animals is captured in a mixture of landscape shots and close-ups of local flora and fauna. These are laid out in an entrancing design that was achieved with the help of Japan book-maker Kazuma Obara , who worked together with Ermakova to create a book that radiates nostalgia. Yellow-tone pages, a simple aesthetic, along with a cover bearing Fedor’s childlike illustrations tie into the fact of the story itself. A feeling of human connection permeates its pages, speaking to the intimate bond between mom and child. “It was obviously a new form of communication, ” recalls Ermakova. “We learned to cooperate and understand one another on some other level and am is sincerely grateful in order to him that he trusted me. ”

In a sense, the guide is both a study associated with Fedor’s completely ordinary desires to dream, to grow, and to discover – desires that are discussed by all children – and a tribute to the qualities that make him unique. “My son’s a special guy. He or she was a very thoughtful and slow child and it generally seemed that he was very far away, ” says Ermakova. “He loves all animals, birds and insects, and they reciprocate. When we walk in the forest or in the fields, he’s always surrounded by butterflies and dragonflies and they calmly sit on him. He can even simply take them in his hands and they don’t fly away. ” The photobook reflects on Fedor’s beautifully strong attachment to the natural world and the ways that, from time to time, the natural world forms an attachment to him.  

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the positioning of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

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