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valery lobko. photography from minsk grant kester. a western view nadzeja karotkina. new belarusian photography nadzeja karotkina. lucida momenta

photography from minsk
by valery lobko (
1991)

 

When talking about photography it is important to distinguish between two diametrical approaches to photography and two essentially different results. In the one instance the photograph stops the moment. The moment is isolated from the continuum of space and time, it is a record without temporal and spatial code. That is the result of photography in its pure form, which needs no author. It has nothing to do with the essential -- the blind eye of the lens does not penetrate but reflects what is seen, not what the main thing is.

In the other approach, the author is what is important, a contact, a sensation of rhythm, a resonance, a spiritual interpretation of existence is what is necessary. Emphasis is on fusion of emotion, aesthetics and information, the essential is a record with a temporal and spatial code, a condensation and a possibility of restoration of a fragment of Universe, its outburst from a sheet of paper...

I am really convinced that in the art of photography we are dealing with one and the same secret: creation .in photography is a universal truth, which has unfolded to artists in different ages and places. My task as a teacher in Minsk, has been in the main, very simple -- to lead artists, to bring them closer to this secret, to help them touch it. And then everything -- from the artist himself to God. Learning the secret is to the neophyte a revelation, which is too intimate [] and not always obvious. An inner light and a spiritual energy in a photograph begin to witness of his understanding of the secret.

As a discipline of craft, photography contains the possibility of art, but in the form of potential, undeveloped possibility to create. I think that there is still a lot to be done in order to reveal the specific character of this type of creative work. But talent has the strength to break through into the area of the unknown, and the works of a number of artists serve as an example of this.

As I understood this, I looked for my pupils among young people, who already had an education, but who were totally disillusioned with life or work. I looked for people, who had an ability to create but not yet an instrument to express their spirit. Among them I searched for artists of photography but tried to avoid people, who already worked with photography -- I did not think that the photography, which they knew, most likely was not art, but that it could be art. I told them about the rare, but very important, examples of such art and taught them to photograph, without looking but by feeling, the town, the trees, the people, man. Some were amused by this, some merely left in anger, but some stayed.

Who were those who stayed? Which of them will continue my work? Who will become a great artist? May I make my exit?

I do not think that the experience from our school should be exaggerated: an informal structure, which was held up on the initiative and support of a frail group of amateurs does not look very serious against the background of professional educational structures of both East and West Europe. But it must not be underestimated, either: the idea of the school and the practical work, the consistent orientation toward professional, creative activity against the background of an almost total lack of training in creative photography in the USSR allow it to be used for establishing a professional school.

If one should add some concrete information about the school, then the following should be said: The idea of a training studio (and even the attempts at its semi-formal realization in the photo club Minsk) was formed long ago. The first official intake of students into the creative studio (which was led by the well-known photographer, Mikhail Zhilinsky) took place in the early eighties on the basis of a competition of works. I think that training in the studios (where Mikhail imparted to the students both collective and individual experience) was useful to the artists. But I am very sorry for those, who were not admitted to the studio, those who had less experience and were inclined more to listen than to believe. I was already the leader of the school when the first students "graduated", but they retained their loyalty to the first teacher.

The second intake into the studio, and in particular, the third, was purely up to me, when the basic criterion for admission was not photographs (for what can you say in photographs when you are only semi-skilled?), but personality. However, the first impression was not always confirmed later, but I think that this kind of disappointment was mutual.

The second group of graduates from the school ("Studio 2") included a few interesting artists, among them Yury Elizarovich, who almost immediately opened his own creative training Studio. The graduates of "Studio 3", among them were such artists as Sergey Kozhernyakin and , Vladimir Parfenok, drew around themselves artists from other graduated groups and together later formed the creative association Province. The graduates from Yury Elizarovich's studio formed the creative association Panorama, which includes such interesting artists as Viktor Zhuravkov, Igor Savchenko, and new, less well-known artists.

In the beginning the Province group of artists often presented works of avant-garde nature and gravitated towards actions, which astounded the respectable public and representatives of semi-official organs. Particular success in this was achieved by Byelorussian Climate, a synthetic group, which was established and inspired by Irina Sukhy. Panorama, which professed classical photography, found itself in aesthetically served presentations of works, filled with light and cleanness. Shows and exhibitions in the USSR and abroad were often arranged by the two associations together.

The story of exhibitions by photographers from Minsk would not be complete without mentioning the artists of the creative group Meta, which was formed by young designers and photographers of kindred spirit. The works of this group were not made without any link to the school, but at a distance, which led to a curious process of competition and mutual influence which considerably widened the spectrum of creative results at joint shows. The works of the group's leader, Aleksander Uglyanitsa, attracted the attention of Western public during the very first exhibitions, and excelled in originality and sure hand.

 

This article was published in "BILDTIDNINGEN". 1991, # 52(3) (Sweden) and "KATALOG". 1991, vol.4, # 1 (Denmark)

 

Selected Reference Publications:

Katalog. 1 No. 2 (Dec. 1988), pp. 4-45: Presentations of 11 artists (incl. Mihailov, Shulgin & Parfenok). Da./eng. Odense.

Eskola,T. & Eerikainen, H. Toisinnakijat. Uusi Valokuva Neuvostoliitossa. Fin. Helsinki 1988 (many artists).

Eerikainen, H., "Det konceptuella och det manipulerade fotografiet i sovjet kontexten", in Erosion, Helsinki 1990. Fin. (Sljusarev, Aksjonov, Kuprijanov, Shulgin, Pjatkovka, Mihailov, Parfenok & Ugljanitsa).

Photomanifesto. Contemporary Photography in the U.S.S.R (ed. Walker, Ursitti & McGinniss). Essays by A. Laurentiev, V. Stigneev, G. Kester & I. Racheyeva. New York, 1991. Salomon, Andrew, The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost. Eng. New York, 1991.

 

 

 

 

 

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valery lobko. photography from minsk grant kester. a western view nadzeja karotkina. new belarusian photography nadzeja karotkina. lucida momenta

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