The Calvert Journal went looking for great Russian photography at the recent Paris Photo, the world’s premiere photography gathering, held at magnificent glass and steel Grand Palais on the Champs-Élysées. Assessing the Russian contribution, Olga Sviblova, director of the Multimedia Art Museum Moscow, was cautiously optimistic: “It’s very important for Russian photographers to be published and presented internationally. 10 or 15 years ago there were only a few Italian photographers that were well-known names and I believe the same is happening today in Russia. We need to look for young photographers and we need to make them known internationally.” Here’s our pick of the best five photographers at Paris Photo working in Russia.
One of the undoubted highlights of Paris Photo — as well as one of Russian photography’s biggest stories this year — was the presentation of An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture, 2013), the new book from Rob Hornstra and Arnold Van Bruggen. The Dutch duo have spent the past five years documenting the Caucasus, in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics — much to the displeasure of some Russian officials.
There was a strong Russian contingent on show at specialist photo gallery In Camera: as well as Evgenia Arbugaeva’s nostalgic ode to her Arctic home Tiksi (featured here on The Calvert Journal), there was work by Magnum’s Moscow-born master of shadow and colour Gueorgui Pinkhassov and extracts from Dutch photographer Bertien Van Manen’s 2011 book Let’s Sit Down Before We Go (MACK, 2011), which features extraordinary colour shots of country life that she collected while travelling across the former Soviet Union 1991 to 2009.
At New York’s Nailya Alexander Gallery some of the stars of Soviet photography (Emmanuil Evzerikhin, Yakov Khalip and Arkady Shaikhet) shared wall space with contemporary Russian artist Alexey Titarenko. Having spent many years photographing St Petersburg, he discovered parallels with his hometown in the atmosphere of the Havana. Titarenko’s evocative and at times dramatic monochromatic images are suffused with a love of Dostoevsky and his vision of the city’s light.
The striking Chapelle of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts was chosen to host Davide Monteleone’s exhibition Spasibo. Spotlit in the atmospheric semi-darkness of the Chapelle, the Italian photographer’s large black-and white images made for a beautiful interrogation of notions of Chechnyan identity. In the project, shot between December 2012 and April 2013, Monteleone deliberately creates ambiguous images (are those explosions fireworks or bombs?) that comment on the complex identity of the republic, where Islam and contemporary values rub up against each other.
Elena Kholkhina, from Moscow, won the Rock Your Dummy Prize at a fringe event Le Photobookfest 2013 for her first dummy, Did We Ever Meet? Kholkhina, whose work documents her friends’ lives, one day happened to show her pictures to an older friend who, looking at the images, claimed to have shot many very similar images. Sure enough, many of the images showed exactly the same gestures, actions, objects and even facial features. Did We Ever Meet?, which fits nicely into the recent trend for referencing personal archives, combines a very strong concept with excellent layout and design.