One photographer gets up close and personal with Russia’s youth

Dima Komarov’s brazen photographic style combines an unflinching feeling of hope for the future with a longing for the analogue aesthetics of the past.

16 May 2019

One of the most exciting photographic talents to come out of contemporary Russia, Dima Komarov has blown up since we featured him as part of Calvert 22’s group exhibition Post-Soviet Visions: image and identity in the new Eastern Europe. Discovered online, his portraits have been published by Maps magazine in South Korea, turned into a book by NYC-based Draw Down Books, and included in this year’s FOAM Talent exhibition, which opens in London tonight before travelling to Amsterdam, New York, and Frankfurt.

Komarov was born in Yoshkar-Ola in Russia’s Mari El Republic in 1997. He picked up photography in 2015, enrolling at a college to learn the basics but mostly teaching himself by documenting his friends in St Petersburg: walking around the city, chilling in parks, and playing dress-up in their bedrooms. He says that Instagram played a vital role in his visual education — not surprising, considering Komarov is just 21 years old. Komarov’s photography is informed by the visual saturation of contemporary culture, but somehow manages to transcend it. He cites Harley Weir among his main influences, and there is something of the fashion photographer’s emotional warmth and close-up compositions in Komarov’s portraits.

Positioned somewhere between cutting-edge fashion editorials and Renaissance paintings, the sincerity and playfulness of his documentation of Gen Z Russians have deservedly attracted the attention of international publications.

The works featured as part of the FOAM Talent exhibition stand out for their implicit values as much as their intimacy, warm hues, and beguiling expressions. Creativity represents freedom for his community of young Russians. Photography, as a result, is much more than a career choice: in times when it’s incredibly difficult to make money through creative practice, it’s both a labour of love and a calling. “Photography is my main interest in life. I can photograph every day and never get bored of it,” Komarov once admitted.

Each portrait gives you a glimpse into Komarov’s way of seeing, processing, and experiencing the world. His new project channels the immediacy of selfie culture through analogue photography. The photographs have been rescanned and layered with different textures — an apparent reference to diary entries that makes them even more personal. We are constantly surrounded by images these days, and yet so many things remain unseen; Komarov’s photography is a precious record St Petersburg’s fragile yet wild soul and the strength of its young communities in uncertain times.

FOAM Talent runs from 16 May to 16 June 2019 at London’s Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall. You can find more information here.

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