Posted: July 17, 2017 Filed under: Photobooks, Photography | Tags: Carma Casula, Editorial RM, Leningrad, Peter, Petrograd, Russia, Saint Petersburg, Spanish photography
I do not know Saint Petersburg, but this place has always fascinated me. Two works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky come to my mind when speaking of this city. The short story “White Nights”, which describes a woman’s expectation for her beloved man and, of course, “Crime and Punishment”. After reading these books, how much have I dreamed of the banks of the Neva, passing beside this young couple or following the wanderings of Raskolnikov in prey to torment.
Finally, I do not know Saint Petersburg, one day maybe, but in the meantime Carma Casula takes us there, with her book Peter. The city of Peter is one of the most emblematic cities of Russia, so much so that it changed its name several times to Petrograd, then to become the City of Lenin, Leningrad, before returning to its name Saint Petersburg in 1991 after a tumultuous century in the history of Russia. In her project, Carma Casula watch the contemporanean society of Saint Petersburg, and how it has been wrought by history.
So Carma Casula takes us through the streets of Saint Petersburg. The city is modern and in many ways, hopes and desires seem the same as elsewhere in the world. But we can still read the history of the town, young people bathe in a basin under the eye of a statue of Lenin, young sailors remind us the crew of the battleship Potemnkin. Throughout the book, the past reappears and interacts with present. A picture of portraits of the children of Dostoievsky in his house museum, or the crowd that seeks to photograph, with their mobile phone, Leonard da Vinci’s Madonna Litta in the Museum of the Hermitage. Seasons come one after the other and the summer bathing gives way to snow ; couples get married, young people enjoy parties… Carma Casula offers here a portrait of the city in the thickness of time.
However, the work of Carma Casula is not limited to showing us public life in the streets of Saint Petersburg. She also meets the inhabitants, and her work of portraiture of these Petersburgers brings a new dimension to the story. The portraits are touching and come as a rythm in the book. A text presents the person(s), followed by a portrait and photographs of what is dear or valuable to them. We enter into the intimacy of these inhabitants, who give us a part of their inner feelings with frankness, which makes these testimonies highly valuable. They are fascinating, and also offer us a new entry key to the city. The younger ones express their hopes, while the older tell us about memories. Once again, these testimonies relate the everyday life, the sorrows and the hopes. Some are more touching than others, but these are individual considerations that appeal to our own perception or empathy. A way of deciphering a story in the light of our own memories and above all, of what we expect to find there. We meet these characters as we would meet them in the streets while a conversation takes place, we share ideas, we learn things we did not know before, and we read the history with more humility. The highlights of the twentieth century are unfolding : the horror of the siege of Leningrad by Germans Nazis is told with strength ; we are moved by the story of a couple formed during the Spanish Civil War, when Soviet Union sent troops to train revolutionary troops (this is my favorite story). We meet an Orthodox priest, a young model, a couple of entrepreneurs, a former soldier and many other characters who, at the end, make us feel that we know a little better this majestic city ans its inhabitants.
There are also some small details in this book that provide us some additional information, such as this comparison of kitchens with a bourgeois design “made by Ikea”, in opposition to a middle class kitchen or the extreme poverty of the Kommounalki shared kitchens. These three pictures remarkably show the diversity of the habitats and populations of Saint Petersburg; the stange feeling of what the capitalist dream has been able to represent since 1991, when the population has reappropriated its city.
What I love with this book its ability to let us coming back, for a moment or for longer, to go for a walk in the streets of Saint Petersburg, when we have an hour to lose!
Hardcover book published by Editorial RM in 2016. 17,5 x 23 cm. 234 pages, 130 color photographs
More info : http://www.carmacasula.com/proyecto16.php?idioma=esp&pro=16
Posted: February 19, 2017 Filed under: Photobooks, Photography | Tags: father, Looking for my father, memories, Natalya Reznik, photobook, Russia, Russian photography, Victoria Musvik
The characteristic of photography, of all times, was to record the real, in order to preserve a trace or a memory. It has long been considered that a photograph can not lie, that it was essentially objective. Nevertheless, the most known examples of manipulation of images will appear during the XXth century, in the Soviet Union, especially in the political field when Stalin was erasing all of his opponents from photos and thus from history, one after another. So the picture is authentic ! If we are on the photo, then the moment has existed, at least for us. If we are not on it, it is because the moment did not exist!
Based on these considerations, Natalya Reznik became interested in her family history. In the XXth century, and particularly, in the Soviet Union, the family photo album was a central element of the family memory. A book that used to tell the family saga, the history of the parents, the grandparents … It was the opportunity to find similarities, to understand links. But Natalya never knew her father. An absent military father, who, when she was three-year-old, disapeared from her mother’s life and divorced. He left, above all, to her mother, the feeling of a betrayal that she would never forgive. She will refuse to talk to Natalya about her father and will even remove every pictures from him. Like many teenagers and young women, her mother, to overcome her disappointment, will fill the blanks, with dreams of cinematic loves with European movie stars of the moment : Jean Marais, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo or Marcello Mastroianni!
But if the mourning overcomes the death of a loved one, it is quite different for the absent. How to be oneself without knowing where you come from, without knowing those little things that characterize us all. With this book, Natalya began the search of her father. Starting from family photographs, she will rework the photographs by incorporating the figure of this idealized father through the cinema of the 60s and 70s. Daily scenes which sometimes include Delon, or Belmondo. A strange impression emerges from the images. The cinematographic dimension is very strong, as the images of the actors that she uses have become, through time, icons (thinking about it, icons are another aspect that brings us back to Russia!). An impression of déjà vu which remains disturbed by the context of the daily scenes of the Soviet Union. This imaginary world reconciles East and West and represents all the aspirations of people that come out of years of struggles and wars.
With this work, it is a cathartic process that initiates Natalya. From photographs extracted from her mother’s album, she patiently (re)builds her past, between dream and reality, but above all, from her own memories, reversing the process that it is no longer here photographs that tell the story, but the story that determines the photgraphs. Photography is no longer a source of memory but becomes the representation of memory! This representation takes all its strength when Natalya uses the only bexisting photographs of her father, a series from a photobooth where he posed with her mother. In these photographs, we do not recognize him, he wears sunglasses that hide his eyes, large aviator sunglasses, in vogue during those years, which were supposed to confer a certain charm. She then reworked some of these images and intertwined them with the originals, making it more tangible and recognizable those surrogate fathers who look at us in the eyes, rather than that unknown man hidden behind his smoked glasses. The book ends with two sea views, the first, sunny and calm with birds, seems to send us back in the south around Sochi area, where it all started, during a resort affair. The second shows us a sea caught in the ice, and evokes the northernmost seas, where his father worked and how the story found an end; metaphor of an antagonism of two incompatible worlds despite of appearances.
The book is very elegant and the artistic experience really interesting, but beyond these considerations, this book also addresses a very serious subject that is the need for identification with parents (for me without considerations of gender, according to the current debates in our modern societies), but also the idealization of parents during childhood. Finally, the generosity of this work gives me the feeling, even if I have never met her, to know a little better Natalya!
96 pages, 13×21 cm, 200 numbered and signed copies, self-published.
Digital print, thread stitched binding, hardcover. Text by Victoria Musvik.
More info : http://www.reznikdavydov.com/projects/looking-for-my-father-2016/
Posted: June 20, 2016 Filed under: Photobooks, Photography | Tags: Bogomolova, Chandra, fashion, Hubble, Lookbook, memories, Mirovskaya, Old family photographs and deep sky objects, photobooks, Photography, Russia, Russian photography, selfpublished
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.
Hardcover selfpublished book published in 2016, 15 x 20 cm, 128 pages, 100 copies signed and numbered.
Buy the book at Tipi.
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 …
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.
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/
Posted: April 20, 2016 Filed under: Photobooks | Tags: Borissova, Dimitry, Germanica, Nikishin, photobooks, Photography, Russia, Russian photography, Shagin, Telkov
The photographic scene in the countries of Eastern Europe is extremely prolific. It has this generosity in creating that can be perceived very often when a country emerges from the shadows of an authoritarian regime. The energy stored for years seems to free creation. I have already had occasion to speak of many works from the east and here are five more books that caught my attention recently.
May 9 by Alexey Nikishin
May 9, in Russia, is dedicated to the commemoration of the end of World War II (just one day after us!) And it is the subject of this book. But instead of commemorating the war Alexey Nikishin celebrates peace. The book begins with a few excerpts of war correspondence, some words that reflect the hell, as if, to remind us, all who have died for each of us retains freedom. Published in 2015, this book was originally the result of an assignment for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, but rather than photographing parades of veterans, Alexey chose to show the world that has become possible thanks the victory of the allied troops.
For three years, from 2012 to 2015, Alexey has traveled the world and brought us fragments of lives. The quality of the photographs here lies in their banality, they bear witness to these daily moments that make the richness of our lives, small details, holiday photos, a couple kissing in a long sequence of three photographs taken like an embrace, turning around the couple in an improvised ballet, three views, three seconds of an eternal scene. Each photo is meticulously captioned with the date, time and place as if to affirm a reality which one could doubt, almost images to post on social networks, whose imperfections reflect the reality.
Hardcover, 21 x 24 cm, 72 pages, 30 colour photographs, text in a leaflet in English, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese. First published in Russian in 2015, second edition (first English edition) of 30 copies signed and numbered, published in 2016.
The journals, by Alexey Nikishin and Anton Shagin
The journals is an experience in two voices, or to better say, two scriptures: the first, Alexey’s one is photographic, the second, Anton’s one is in prose. The journal which will become the journals tells us three years of the relatioship between these two friends. It all started when Alexey glued some of his early black and white pictures, in a notebook that was handed to Anton, the latter has kept it with him, annotating with poems, according to his moods and desires. The journal has evolved, it stopped, was found again. There have been additions, withdrawals, gaps appeared… and it lasted three years. How then could one tell this experience, how a book could depict a project, together with its evolution, and not just showing the outcome ?
In this book, we came across a woman, swans and other patterns that come as chanting the same repeating words. The layout leaves space, the photos are small as to prevent us from giving them too much importance ; whites take their place. White, not as an empty space but rather a break. White in a book, it is like the silence on the radio, it’s scary, but well used, it is superb! In the end, the shape is very beautiful, the three books are glued, one passes from one to the next by the touch of the thickness of the cover. The chapters are marked, history reinvents itself … this book talks about the passing of time … and a little of ourselves.
Softcover, 17,8 x 24 cm; 132 pages; 90 black and white and colour photos, text in a leaflet in English, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese. First published in Russian in 2015, first English edition of 30 copies signed and numbered, published in 2016.
iPhonographique, by Alexey Nikishin and Valeria Gai Germanica
Alexey loves combine photography and writing. This time, he worked with the Russian director Valeria Gai Germanica. In the title is understood that the subject touches the “new photography” as practiced with smartphones. After years of a silver traditional photography in black and white, Alexey discovered the joys of “instant” colourful photography. Frenzy of social networks, publications on Instagram, how many followers ? How many likes ? Two people interact, the two combined texts and photos, of Valeria and Alexey, to create a narrative about the weird ways of living, loving and suffering.
When you read a text, images appear in your mind; when we see pictures, a story is invented, too, in our heads. This book is the coincidence of the two. More than a description of one by the other, we are witnessing here an added value, a synergistic effect, an invented sense that remains nevertheless opposable to a alternate reading. It’s like a gigantic stage of life itself: every life is Shakespearean … and every day, we put our daily life on the scene of social networks!
Softcover, 15 x 20 cm, 42 Pages,, French Folding, Japanese Binding; 34 colour photos, text in a leaflet in English, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese. First published in Russian in 2015, first English edition of 30 copies signed and numbered, published in 2016.
Dimitry, by Julia Borissova
There are myths in the Russian history and Dimitry is one of them. Dimitry was the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible. He died mysteriously with cut throat, that was enough for the myth to come to life. For me, these names instantly summon famous names, like Eisenstein (Ivan the Terrible), or Pushkin (Boris Godunov, reinterpreted later by Mussorgsky), two authors who have interpreted this part of Russian history; but we also feels appear in the background the shade of Roland Barthes, particularly with his book “Mythologies” depicting the process of the creation of the myth. How an event can induce doubts or hopes? What about the part of history it creates, it recomposes? How the facts are twisted by the reading of a people or by its leaders? Dimitry’s story is a striking example, including his canonization by the Russian Orthodox church. This book by Julia Borissova is superb as are all those she already produced herself, handmade crafted.
A narration made of collages takes us through the Eternal Russia, images mingling to become timeless. We follow the ghost of Dimitry in the Russian countryside, he moves like a shadowy icon bearer (one thinks of course also to Andrei Rublev). It’s an oniric journey with no goal, just an imprecise souvenir floating like a dream. We try to appropriate the story to better tell it at our turn, enriching the myth ! The book can be read as an investigation, as is every work of a historian, looking for traces and details. Each society rewrote the history according to its modernity, one who is adored one day, becomes despised the day after, and so is built the myth of the hero. Julia Borissova continues her investigation without us deliver the key… One will also see a “prophetic” rooster through the pages which reminds us to the tale by Pushkin, more known from Rimsky Korsakov’s opera in XIXth century : The Golden Cockerel whose theme was the fall of the Tsarism (premonition of the October Revolution) which finds here its metaphoric sense with the murder of the Tsarevich, heir and symbol of the violent excesses committed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. One of the finest books published this year, each page is an icon!
Artist book self published in 2016, 14,5 x 19 cm / Die Cut Hardcover, handmade binding / 88 pages. First Edition of 100 signed and numbered copies.
Artless confessions, by Fyodor Telkov
This last small book takes us back to our childhood. A school notebook of fine paper, protected by a flexible plastic cover. Plain blue, with lines to write his name in hand on the cover. For six years, Fyodor was interested in the most neglected classrooms, especially for a special feature: the graffiti left by students. Some classrooms have a lower maintenance than others and tables accumulate memories, like palimpsests Classrooms are austere, but when approaching tables, life arises. We discover, here, what could be considered as a aesthetic mix of primitive and contemporanian expression.
It is fascinating to discover the universality of these graffiti. Around the world, the subjects are the same. We do not understand the native language, but the patterns are recognizable, flowers, houses, people, signs and symbols as: peace, war. The trace of the language courses, writings in English or German; the adolescent emotions, sex, religion, chivalry, but also some unrecognizable drawings, just a wandering hand on the table, curves and bold and scarifications. Some drawings are naive, others more structured, and some become exquisite corpses reproducing a transgenerational imagination. We stop on the drawings and begin to dream, we would like to take a pencil to add our own trace, our mind wanders and moves away from the classroom, amongst Cypress Hill and Wu Tang bands, teenage dreams seem to be universal…
Self published softcover book, published in 2015. Digital printing, 17 x 20,5 cm, 32 colour photos. 30 copies signed and numbered.
* You may notice that I am an old fan of early James Bond films starring Sean Connery.
Posted: February 21, 2016 Filed under: Photobooks | Tags: Closed cities, photobooks, Photography, Russia, Sergey Novikov, Seversk, staged photography, ZATO
ZATO, what a strange acronym! When looking on internet, we find the explanation : закрытые административно-территориальные образования ЗАТО, zakrytye administrativno-territorial’nye obrazovaniya : ZATO. So, there is only one letter away with that other famous acronym that refers us to this period of the twentieth century that was the Cold War: NATO (just rotate the N a quarter turn).
In his work Sergey takes us to his homeland Russia, in the footsteps of the former USSR. ZATO are closed cities. That means closed to anyone from outside. These cities were considered classified places and therefore off the radars, even for Russians. Weapons factories were found there, or nuclear enrichment or strategic factories, and moreover everything that had to remain secret. These cities were protected by a wall and had severely restricted access, inhabitants were not allowed to mention their places of living. Since the opening of the eastern countries, restrictions are not as stringent, but access to these places is still regulated. One need a formal invitation from a resident to get there. Well, you better read the complete story in Sergey’s book…
I really like the approach chosen by Sergey Novikov. It is not question here of a documentary in the traditional form (or to better say, an old style form) : Sergey has not gone to one of these cities to make the photos; and the narration going on here, is completely staged. The book consists of two parts. In the first, Sergey strives to represent the closed cities. He staged situations, creating a halfway space between reality and his own imagination developed from memories and stories told. The photographs are symbolic thus have a lot more strength. What are the limits of documentary photography and its so-called objectivity, would it be an illusion? Before him, others such as Jeff Wall have worked the idea of representation. If photography has its limits, so why not get rid of this objectivity to take sides. The bias of the author who says things, not with distance, but with appropriation (cf. on this subject Jeff Wall’s photograph entitled “dead troops talk” about a fight scene during the Afghanistan War).
This first part is superb, each photo is a canvas. The characters are frozen, as stopped in a time-space that one seeks to understand. The photos come with a short caption that explains the context and situation. Each situation appears assumed and some characters catch our gaze, seeming say “and then …”. The situation of people living in these cities illustrates the paradox of the whole Russia: a mixed sense of confinment faced with the pride of belonging to something greater, to the point that these inhabitants are fiercely opposed to the opening of these cities. Which, of course, refers to the dilemma between security and freedom: to what extent are we ready to sacrifice our freedom for a small gain in safety. These closed cities are, on average, cleaner and safer than other Russian cities, so why let coming hordes of potentially dangerous individuals that could destabilize this precarious balance.
This is what is mentioned in the second part of the book. The layout completely changes, the sobriety of the beginning gives way to unbridled collages. Sergey offers us the testimonies of experiences related to these cities. People who wanted to go there or inhabitants, shown through real elements such as pictures commissioned from photographers living inside, as to prove that these cities exist. These images act as counterpoints to the first part. They do not have the same visual qualities but they reflect reality. They reveal nothing more than the appearance of these places, similar in every way to other Russian cities. And we understand, here, that despite this reality effect, images from the beginning have told us a lot more. The book ends on excerpts from social medias. Introduced by a photograph that shows the hashtag #ZatoLove, Sergey lists all the evidence that people are strongly opposed, even violently, at the opening of their cities.
ZATO was self published in 2016 in a first edition of 50 copies which are already sold out. A second print run of 25 copies will be available soon. Softcover, digital print, 21 x 28 cm, 56 pages. Texts in Russian and English.
More info : http://sergeynovikov.com/index.php?/book/zato/
And an interview : http://fotografiamagazine.com/zato-closed-cities-sergey-novikov/
Remaining copies can be found here : https://www.kominek-gallery.com/index.php?id=14&uid=721&tx_ttproducts_pi1[L]=0&tx_ttproducts_pi1[backPID]=157&tx_ttproducts_pi1[product]=721
Posted: June 30, 2015 Filed under: Photobooks, Photography | Tags: Gronsky, Nickel, Norilsk, photobooks, Photography, Powerplant, Russia, The Velvet Cell
To introduce this post, I’d like to explain that this is a new attempt to create a crossover review of a book. We have chosen « Norilsk » by Alexander Gronsky with my fellow blogger Gabriela Cendoya – mainly photobooks. Both articles will be posted concomitantly and shared respectively in the second part of the article. Hope you’ll like this new experience. Thanks gabriela !
When you reach the Polar Circle, life turns to some weird conditions which are hardly bearable for people who are not originated from those areas. These are places of extremes : complete dark nights in winter, sunlight 24 hours a day in summer, and an average temperature of minus 30 in February. Those places were populated by indigenous populations who used to live in those conditions and thus developed an economic activity in relation with them and based on hunting and specific agriculture.
In the XXth century, the governments of northern countries discovered the richness of the underground : iron ore in Kiruna (Sweden), oil and gas in Hammerfest (Norway) and nickel, copper and cobalt ore in Norilsk (Russia). Amongst those different places, Norilsk has a particular history. Created in the 30’s by Stalin, the place was supposed to become a huge center for energetic ressources for the communist regime : extraction of ore (nickel, copper) and coal, and also place of production of electricity with thermal and hydropower plants. And last but not least, comrade Stalin was well known for his care of human beings, he created Norillag, a specific Gulag camp dedicated to host the workforce who will work around Norilsk. The actual population is mainly composed of descendants of prisoners who, as often in every USSR Gulag, remain in place when they were released, not having any more relatives in the place they lived before their internment.
From those facts, you won’t expect to find any tourist office in Norilsk. The town is considered as one of the ugliest and most polluted place in the world.
Alexander Gronsky was born in 1980 in Tallinn and focused since 2008 on the margin of the decayed USSR society : outskirts of Moscow, Murmansk, Norilsk, Siberian outermost areas with less than one inhabitant per square kilometer… Alexander’s photographs are often quite hard to read, landscapes are out of scale and the place of human beings becomes anecdotal. People does not fit their environment and the past oppression of the population remains visible.
Well, after those digressions (which are not in fact) let’s talk about “Norilsk” the book. The strongest impression is that we discover a ghost town. According to the northern location of the town and the state of vegetation, the photographs could have been shot during summer nights which explains the missing people in the street, but, in fact, it merely emphasizes the lack of life remaining in Norilsk. We barely see people in the photos, and when there are some, we don’t understand what they’re doing here : two men waiting for an improbable bus at a stop, a woman coming from nowhere crossing a railway, three persons on a raft floating on pond made from a past quarry. In every other photos, the town is deserted, alternating parking lots, kinder garden or wastelands (the majority). The paradox in Alexander Gronsky work is the fantastic aesthetics that outcrop from the photographs. Each photo is fulfilled with details that tell the background of the place and everything is out of scale : buildings without ending, pylons lines, chimneys, past quarries, removed land, dump of cars…
What we can see is the aftermath of a disaster : an economic, ecological and social disaster, or to better say the failure of a system (I mean stalinism, not communism). All photographs are slightly desaturated, mainly composed in gray with some touches of colors that have faded away for years now. Grey is the color of the life up there, greyness of buildings, greyness of soils, greyness of smokes which remain ubiquitous, the color has left this world. No animals neither in those pictures which is quite rare to not even have a bird in a sky, or a cat passing through the street, the life has left this world.
Well, we have known from “The new topographics” that the ugliness of a place can make aesthetics representations, and that’s exactly what we are in with this book. Alexander has a perfect eye to compose and organise his photographs. Despite what we see, we fall in love with its representation, and that’s probably one of the biggest quality for a photographer (Pastoral won the 3rd place in Daily Life Stories for the World Press Photo 2012).
The book is published by The Velvet Cell, a fantastic publisher dedicated to landscape photography (I also recommend the « Chronicles » series). 64 pages, 27 photos, 14 x 23 cm, Hardcover cleverly bound which allow us to open the book lay flat, print run : 500 copies.
More about Alexander Gronsky : http://alexandergronsky.com/#/
More about The Velvet Cell : http://www.thevelvetcell.com/
Gabriela’s very good blog : https://gabrielacendoya.wordpress.com/
All images copyright Alexander Gronsky and The Velvet Cell, can be removed on request.
Hoy es el primer dia de una colaboración. Christer Ek me ofreció hacer un post en común, un cruce entre los dos, “a review crossing”. Acepté, temblorosa, halagada y profundamente honrada. Le doy las gracias por ser el iniciador de esta experiencia, que espero se prosiga en el tiempo. Encontrareis su version después de la mía, en inglés. Thank you Christer !
Norilsk. Alexander Gronsky. The Velvet Cell. 2015.
Tapa dura, en carton.23×14,3 cm. 64 paginas. Color. Sin texto.
Primera edición. Tirada limitada 500.
The Velvet Cell es una pequeña pero muy activa editorial creada en 2011 por el fotógrafo irlandés Eanna De Fréine, basada en Japón. Publican entre otros libros una serie llamada ” Chronicles” , magazines de tirada limitada (100) , con temas de urbanismo y paisaje, vendidos por subscripción.
Alexander Gronsky es un fotógrafo de Estonia (1980, Tallin). Ganó el World Press Photo en 2012. Trabaja principalmente en los países de la antigua Union Soviética. En 2013 publico un precioso “Pastoral” con la editorial Contrasto Books, sobre lugares de recreo y esparcimiento en las afueras de Moscú.
Norilsk es un libro triste y desolador, sobre una ciudad desolada entre las mas desoladas, en el norte de Siberia.
Si buscamos el nombre de Norilsk en Wikipedia, descubrimos que es la ciudad de mas de 100 000 habitantes mas al norte del mundo, que ha sido de los primeros ” Gulag” creados en los años 30, y también, debido a la presencia de minas de níquel, y su consiguiente industria, es una de las 10 ciudades con mas polución del mundo.
La ciudad que nos muestra Gronsky parece una ciudad fantasma, prácticamente deshabitada, como abandonada después de una catástrofe nuclear, como podríamos imaginar Chernobyl… pero no, porque se percibe actividad en las chimeneas de las fabricas, y no, porque en las imágenes que conocemos de Chernobyl encontramos mucha vegetación. Aquí , paradójicamente , la única vegetación se encuentra en el cementerio, pobres arbustos, que no llegarán nunca a la condición de arboles (ni un árbol en 48 km, dice Wikipedia).
27 fotografías, todas sacadas a la luz del día, en plena ciudad, en las que solo encontramos presencia humana viva en 4 de ellas. Una presencia irreal y absurda en una ciudad fantasma, como la aparición de un parque infantil. Puede haber niños entre los amontonamientos de automobiles deshechos y los ríos de agua estancada?
Luz triste y ténue, gris y pastel, azules lavados, celadon, verdes pasados con el tiempo… la paleta de Gronsky es rica de muchos matices. Sus fotos son tan aterradoras como bellas. En formato pequeño pero a doble pagina, el efecto es terriblemente cautivador. Las perspectivas de bloques de viviendas alineados, las torres eléctricas, las chimeneas o los descampados de coches abandonados forman un conjunto plásticamente muy impresionante.
Alexander Gronsky consigue plasmar en un libro de apariencia modesta una gran historia, con un gran resultado. Un libro como una premonición de fin del mundo, fino y sutil, de una belleza inquietante.
Posted: May 9, 2015 Filed under: Photobooks, Photography | Tags: Alex Ingram, Bristol, England, English photography, Europen photography, Football, photobooks, Russia, Sergey Novikov, supporters, Volga
In the mid seventies, as a teenager, one of my biggest concern was football, particularly because, in France, it was the glorious time of « Les verts » the football team of Saint Etienne which gained access, in 1976, to the final of what was then the equivalent of the European champions league. I with my friends had a crazy spring time watching all matches until the last one versus the Bayern who defeated St Etienne 1-0. In those days, every spare moment was dedicated to play with a ball or… to collect Panini stickers and save them in a, seasons after seasons, never finished album. I discovered recently that, nowadays you can buy the missing vignettes from their internet site, clever business !
« Un unconditional love » could have been, at least in the first part, my own story and that’s probably why I like it so much. What Alex Ingram shows us here is the true and honest passion an amateur could have for football in its more noble consideration.
The book is organised around what could be the story of someone. It opens with black and white photos of kids playing in fields, backyard houses. We instantly recognize the English greyness which remind the film Kes by Ken Loach : here the bird is replaced by a ball, but the young boy has real similarities with Billy Casper. So when the « film » begins with the first pictures we’re caught by the story.
Then we move a little further, times are changing and photos are now in color. We follow the teenager, having his first official team shirt, playing his debut matches in front of a couple of spectators, in some almost deserted stadia with not nets for the goals and a burger van for restaurant. All those sequences interlaced so we never really know if we follow one single person or if we have different characters who interact.
The middle part of the book is dedicated to the memories. Of course here are the Panini vignettes which alternate with contemporary photographs shot in studio by Alex Ingram. The confrontation turns to a funny mixture. The old photos are incredibly dated 70’s while the studio photos are modern young women standing in sport suits, showcasing the evolution of this sport which was mainly, or even only, a male game in the 70’s. There is a great attention to the use of color and black and white which emphasizes the passing of time. Amongst the collections of photographs we found some old black and white pictures « from the archives », photos from the 70’s are grainy and faded while the recent ones are bright and colorful. It is in the middle of this section that comes an essay by Senior Lecturer in Sociology David Green who explains his equivocal love for Liverpool team but more generally for football.
To stay on the tracks of the amateurism, the third part is about supporters. We follow them down the streets, wearing scarves, drinking beers, shouting loud or staring sad, depending on the occasion. We meet people alone but also crowds, people chating or watching religiously, respectful or kidding… This is a portrait of the humankind in its glory and decadence. This is what makes all human being lovable with his strengths and weaknesses. We meet babies, young fellows and elderly people, all generations share the same passion for football. Well… This is England !
What is not the less remarkable with this body of work is that nowadays many photographers work on autobiography which is not the case here. Alex has never been a football fan and his work has much to be considered in a documentary style. He was intrigued by the sociological aspects of football in England and focused around his hometown Bristol. In this work, there is a direct filiation with some famous English documentary photographers Daniel Meadows, Chris Killip, Paul Graham (early years) or more recently Ken Grant or Jim Mortram, amongst many others.
Softcover book, 21 x 28 cm, design by Yee Poon, 118 pages, self published in a first edition of 10. A second edition is already planned. Published in 2015.
More info : http://www.alexingramphoto.com/football
This book remind me another very good one published a few years ago. It is called « FC Volga United », by Sergey Novikov. Despite the fact that they are very different, they share a lot. The topic of Sergey’s book is the football clubs all along the Volga river which all got an FC Volga name.
The book comprises three kind of photographs : portraits of players standing on the field and staring proudly to the camera, photos of the Volga river in the nearby area and pictures of the stadia with their surrounding environment and where a competition takes place. Between photos we found texts about the ambiance before, during and after the matches which explain the context with sentences heard around the stadium.
In this book again, what is magnified is the amateurism and the passion for a game. And maybe for us in the Western world, there are some more resonnances due to the magical evocation of the Volga River amongst which is the Red Army Chorus singing the Volga Boatmen or some cinematographic reminiscences from Alexander Nevsky in Nizhny Novgorod.
FC Volga United is a small softcover book, 13,5 x 21 cm, 60 pages. The first edition was limited to 25 and came with a small 10 x 15 cm print. A second edition is available. Published in 2011.
More info : http://sergeynovikov.com/index.php?/projects/fc-volga-united/
All images copryright Alex Ingram and Sergey Novikov.