17 MARCH 2023 - 27 AUGUST 2023

Diana Markosian

Santa Barbara

Diana Markosian’s Santa Barbara comes to Fotografiska

family history

Photographer and filmmaker Diana Markosian explores the nature of family and the American dream. At the age of 7, the family abandoned their life in Moscow for California, leaving behind Markosian’s father. Inspired by the soap opera, Santa Barbara, Markosian creates her own world through a series of staged photographs and a narrative video, reconsidering her family history from her mother’s perspective and coming to terms with the profound sacrifices her mother made to become an American. The exhibition Santa Barbara will be shown at Fotografiska Stockholm from March 17 to August 27.

The Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991. One month later, the American soap opera Santa Barbara aired in post-Soviet Russia, a minor detail that would go on to influence Diana Markosian’s life more than she could ever have imagined. For Markosian’s family, the show represented a dream, something far away from the desperation their life had become.

“When I was seven years old, living with my family in Moscow, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night and said we were going on a trip. The year was 1996. The Soviet Union had long collapsed, and by then, so had my family. We left without saying goodbye to my father, and the next day landed in a new world: America.”

truth and fiction

In the exhibit Santa Barbara, which opens on March 17 at Fotografiska Stockholm, Markosian reconstructs the final days in post-Soviet Russia and her family’s arrival in the United States. Yet it is also a powerful examination of the interplay between the idealized vision of California life portrayed on television and the reality of the immigrant experience. Santa Barbara tests and challenges the limits of truth, fiction, documentary, and memory.

“Markosian’s photographs are as beautiful as they are striking. Being ripped from her roots and starting a new life in a completely different place with everything that entails is something many people can relate to. It’s an important story, an exhibition that you can feel in the gut,” says Sofia Liljergren, exhibition producer for Santa Barbara at Fotografiska Stockholm.

The exhibition Santa Barbara will be shown at Fotografiska Stockholm from March 17 to August 27.


Santa Barbara is organized by the International Center of Photography, in collaboration with FOMU and Filles du Calvaire. Santa Barbara was first exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


A New Life, 2019, © Diana Markosian
My Father on My Birthday, 2019, © Diana Markosian
The arrival, 2019, © Diana Markosian