This work was made in collaboration with a group of women who were labeled as disabled as young children and grew up isolated in a Soviet-era institution on the edge of a forest in western Ukraine. Not allowed to leave the premises, we worked inside the classroom where they spend their days and in front of the concrete wall surrounding the facility. The photographs imagine ways to transcend the physical boundaries of place, invoking fairy tale while rooted in the details of documentary reality. The project explores questions about gendered power, freedom of the imagination, and the construction of normal female behavior.
The artwork that opens and closes the book was made over the pages of a book about Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century Ukrainian artist, ethnographer, serf, peasant, poet and imprisoned political figure who is widely revered today. Forbidden by from making photos on several of her visits, Drake instead invited the women to paint on the artwork made by Shevchenko and his male contemporaries, re-imaging the published pages of history with their own hands.
The images were made between 2014 and 2016, but Drake's involvement with the women began years earlier when she was living in the region and first met and photographed them as children. She returned in 2014, expecting that the girls would have graduated out of the orphanage, but found most of them still living there.