From Russia with love, part II

For the last few years we discover more and more photographers that came from Eastern Europe, especially Russia. This is certainly one of the positive effects of globalization that we can access this production. After my previous post, I wanted to come back on two great books recently discovered, which have in common to question the functioning and building of memory(ies).

The first is “Old family photographs and deep sky objects”, by Alla Mirovskaya. Superb self-published book that combines old photos from family albums with pictures of space made by the Hubble telescope and from Chandra Observatory.

At first sight, one might wonder why associate these two series, especially as Alla Mirovskaya mixes the captions. But it’s ultimately how we begin to find meaning. We realize that to be figurative as these two series are, they nonetheless unknown to us. Whether the constellations or the characters are only known through their representations. They contain the same vagueness while the images overlap and intermingle. Something appears in our imagination, which is not without recalling the montage of attractions theorized by S. M. Eisenstein. One does not only remain a spectator of the story, one seems to remember, alongside Alla when turning the pages of the album. Alla also explains that it is a bit to perpetuate the family tradition that she has done this work. One way to include this memory on paper, now abandoned to the computer.

What is also touching is this association of the closest and the further. This intimacy experienced through the families stories from which Alla Mirovskaya takes her matter, and the absolute distance that no human being will ever experience of the faraway space. It’s a big gap in the history of mankind.

This book is also a piece of the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. We see young pioneers at the Komsomol, leisures, community activities, groups. And also, the shadow of the Cold War with the choice to combine the intimate pictures of Russian families with the US space observation. Like was the twentieth century, two opposing cultures which both needed each other to exist. This past century  is also reminded to us by the use of a few red tinted photographs which emphasizes the memory of the communist era !

One of the greatest quality of this book is, in my opinion, the opportunity for everyone to find his own story. This is somewhat a puzzle that everyone will have to rebuild, with different pieces of stories.

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Hardcover selfpublished book published in 2016, 15 x 20 cm, 128 pages, 100 copies signed and numbered.

Buy the book at Tipi.

 

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The second book I want to talk about here is “Lookbook” by Anastasia Bogomolova. Old boxes stored in a barn where memories will emerge from. Old clothes from her mother and elder sister, from the eighties and nineties, bought in Soviet stores or sewn at home with the help of patterns found in fashion magazines.

As a child, Anastasia liked to wear these clothes, skirts, blouses and shoes are the symbol of femininity to become for the pre-teenager girl. So Anastasia takes out, from these boxes, these old clothes to begin a journey in time. It becomes a role play to revisit these outfits. The poses are sophisticated, like in those old fashion magazines. Her hair combed, made-up, dressed, she poses in front of old colorful wallpapers from the Soviet era. The colors are acid, both for the clothes and the background. The two will meet in a shimmer of colors.

Just like in those old magazines, poses are supposed to be natural but they are not. Sometimes smiling, sometimes seductive, sometimes dreamy, Anastasia alternately charms us, seduces us, or stare at us with distance. She became actress of that first idea that she had of beauty, discovered in the fashion magazines of the seventies and eighties, questioning the social vision of femininity and sexuality. We find these magazines in the book as small reproductions interspersed, which bear witness to this past history. But where the old fashion photos, are only … fashion photographs, the photographs of Anastasia Bogomolova become canvas in a way like Cindy Sherman did before her. Anastasia is on stage to better look at herself in the process of comprehension of her memory, a way to recreate and to stage his memories. The intriguing effect is that the same woman appears on these photos, as was sometimes the same models found in the pages of these old fashion magazines.

From a personal point of view, this work also resonates with my own history. Indeed, I knew these magazines in the seventies, when, to raise me, my mother quit her job to be a seamstress at home. All around, at home, were these magazines, these pieces of fabric, these patterns, and I got used to the rhythm of the sewing machine …

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Finally, and not least, this book is very funny. One goes through the pages with delight, it is a cure for melancholy (literally since this book is anything but black). We end it with joy, especially since it includes a poster: silk summer dress with blue and white strips, 1989. This is just what we need to prepare for summer.

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Self-published softcover book, published in 2016, First edition of 90 signed and numbered copies, Design by Julia Borissova, Photographs, archive & texts by Anastasia Bogomolova, 21×28,5 cm, 40 pages+32 pages of inserts, Including poster 42×59,4 cm.

Read more : http://anabogomolova.viewbook.com/books

And Colin Pantall’s blog

And a good ressource for Russian books : http://store.fotodepartament.ru/

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Elephant ゾウサン by Kurama

Kurama is a discrete photographer about who we know very little. Most of the information available can be found at the end of his book : Little information is public about Kurama. During the last 20 years he has exhibited in different countries (USA, Argentina, Taiwan, France and Japan). His work is not limited to silver gelatin photography ; he has experimented with serigraphy and lithography as alternative printing methods. And that’s all !

So we can try to know him a little more through the pages of his book. What he shows us here is his eroticized way of looking at the world, at every moment, even outside any notion of intimacy. This book is his diary; he reveals his two main passions : elephants and women. These are the two recurring themes that punctuate the book; they come back again and again, like a little jingle haunting, which would have nestled in a corner of our head. And then, slowly, we understand that every image eroticises the world it represents. Sequencing is clever, it keeps us in suspense! We cross shadows of some great names of Japanese photography : Moriyama, Araki, Nakahira… and many more who have definitely influenced Kurama. From them, he certainly learned the freedom to photograph (in the meaning of writing with light to tell), this freedom in favor of a sensitive representation, the ability for a stronger narration rather than just a collection or a compilation of photographs. It also refers to this sentence from Jean-Luc Godard: It is not a just image, it is just an image (ce n’est pas une image juste, c’est juste une image, in French)! Blur or precise, dark or black, all photographs meld into an “out of time” narration. The book has no beginning, neither an end, even if, ultimately, it is an elephant who opens and closes the book.

Black and white are great, we can almost feel the grain of the baryta paper on which Kurama realizes his prints. It also reveals the wait, so proper to film photography. Lab time is a long time compared to the digital speed. The image, first developed then enlarged is only delivered to us after a long process in which excitation and relaxation blend. Instants elongate and when an image is out of focus, our mind wanders and escapes into a reverie that only the blur of inaccuracy allows. We thus interfere in the history of Kurama, we fulfill it to make it ours.

Oh, and through the pages, we will also meet an orangutan, a sort of ironic spectator of this story with a funny similarity between its exercising area made of ropes and those used in bondage practice, seen in some photographs. Finally, we kind of, come out of a dream, the interwoven pictures still resonate within us, but we struggled to reconstruct the story; we have to deal with that; we still remember, and memories are, well… a bit peculiar to photography.

Softcover book, 14,8 × 21 cm, 122 pages, black & white photos. Produced by in)(between in an edition of 100 copies.

More info : in)(between

And Josef Chladek’s virtual bookshelves