Dear Mom and Dad

Kseniya Apresian's photography reveals unspoken and repressed childhood feelings

Words By Mario Heller
Photos By Kseniya Apresian

People move to Berlin for many different reasons. Some people come in search of a new life, others come to escape an old one. In this photographic series, Kseniya Apresian documents people who have experienced difficult childhoods, and who have made the city their adopted home as a way to distance themselves from their families. They all came in search of a sense of freedom, but have they found it?

Kseniya Apresian first conceived of the project in July 2019. Through conversations with her friends, she realised that her own experience of having a difficult childhood was very common, although nobody really wanted to talk about it. Kseniya started to look for other people in Berlin who had the same kind of experiences and who were willing to share them. To put people at ease and to allow them to open up, Kseniya visited them in their own homes. This resulted in intimate, personal portraits with a real sense of closeness. When it came to the telling of their stories, some people found that it was tougher than they expected, bringing feelings to the surface that were usually submerged. One of the protagonists was even moved to see a psychologist to help her cope better with her past. For Kseniya, transcribing the interviews was an emotional process that affected her deeply.

Here, Kseniya shares a selection of those stories. The photos will be exhibited at Das Giftraum in Neukölln from March 6 to March 8.

My parents have never been interested in my life. They never really talked to me. Every evening they just came home after work and watched TV. As a child, I got used to not sharing anything with them and as a teenager, I didn’t feel like talking to them at all. When I felt bad, I cried in my room listening to Russian punk rock. I never told my parents about how lonely I felt.
There’s hardly anyone who hasn’t been through a trauma, meaning that each family made some mistakes. I think that the concept of the family will change in future – maybe even disappear. It will happen, when we realize what moves us to create a family. It’s just an instinct. We’re afraid of loneliness and that’s all.
I didn’t understand why I hated myself. I just felt that if my parents couldn’t love me, who would? I’m an unlovable person. I was searching for a reason not to love me, but I couldn’t find it.
I have hardly ever done anything bad. But my parents were beating us all the time. I kept having these nightmares from early childhood up. The nightmare was always the same: I was in the middle of tropical plants grabbing me, so I couldn’t move, and my mother and my father were screaming at me.
My parents are divorced and I try to avoid talking to them about each other. There's always a risk that each parent is going to tell you his side of the story. And show the other one in a bad light whether they want it or not. So I prefer not to know what they think of each other.

Dear Mom and Dad will be exhibited in Das Giftraum in Neukölln from March 6 to March.