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