Head On Photo Festival – Toma Gerzha



Russian-born Toma Gerzha has lived in the Netherlands since 2009, where she is a practising photographer and published co-author.  Having completed her photography studies in 2019, Gerzha gained public recognition in 2022 for her solo exhibition at C-LAB Art Gallery in Amsterdam. The show included a series of photographs of teenagers in the post-Soviet space taken a few months before the war in Ukraine.  As part of the 2023 Head On Photo Festival, Delmar Gallery is pleased to present an installation selected from these photographs, together with a new series .ru, developed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine using AI software.

“Generation Z was born between 2000 and the present day. It is the first generation raised in the post-Soviet space and a digital environment. From an early age, they have used smartphones and cannot imagine a world without the internet.

In large cities such as Kyiv, Moscow, and Minsk, people have started to talk about new ethics, cancel culture, and gender-neutral words.

In small towns, no one is interested in this. People here have other issues: they focus on survival, including the youngest generation. Zoomers here are not as affected by smartphones and the internet.

Ideals in such cities are, therefore, built on the experience of previous generations rather than by the rapid digitalisation of information. The main goal for young people here is to move to a bigger city, whether that means through study, work or luck. For some of them, this path is successful, but most go back or try to build their future following the example of their parents in their hometown.

During the making of my documentary photo project ctrl+r about youth in post-Soviet countries, the war in Ukraine started. This froze my documentary series and I returned to the Netherlands. It was highly risky to continue with this project at the time and I decided to shelve it.

I wanted to expand this series, but I realised that it would be impossible to return to these countries in the near future. I’ve tried creating selections, short stories and collages from photos I’ve had taken. And then a new tool came into my hands – Midjourney.

Midjourney is an artificial intelligence software operating with pictures. This neural network is able to create new images using text descriptions, technical parameters and other imagery. I was interested in this software because it had the ability to combine multiple images together and create a new scene with it. With artificial intelligence I extended my project using the photos I had taken in Russia.

In Midjourney I started to put my own photographs together, indicating what details I wanted to take from each image. This created surreal landscapes with existing main characters, surroundings and details that in reality never existed in the same place and time.”

A featured exhibition of the 2023 Head On Photo Festival.

Exhibition dates: 11 November to 3 December 2023

Gallery hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 12 – 5pm

TOMA GERZHA, ctrl+r series
TOMA GERZHA, .ru series

  • 2 November 2023