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FotoDepartament’s Best of 2017

Installation shot of Alexander Anufriev's series Russia Close-Up, 2016-2017 at FotoDepartament's Presence Festival

Nadya Sheremetova and Yury Gudkov from the St Petersburg-based photography gallery, publishing house, and creative hub pick out their top five Russia-related projects of 2017 - including the second edition of FotoDepartament's Presence festival

Presence Festival
This autumn we held the Presence festival for the second year in a row. It was organised around the idea of perceiving photography not just as an aesthetic object, but as a process. Today artists in Russia are offered very few opportunities for realisation of, and participation in, ambitious projects. Noticing this, we adjusted our work towards making more large-scale projects, and this year we had a breakthrough – it was not only the important international guests who formed the message. We were able to make major claim of a growing art scene emerged, via the group exhibition Privacy and tranquility, curated by Yury Gudkov and Nadya Sheremetova.

The exhibition turned out to be a combination of the curatorial idea of the modern world’s state, and the positions of fully fledged Russian artists: Alexander Veryovkin, Asya Zhetvina, Egor Tsvetkov, Irina Zadorozhnaia, Yulia Spiridonova, Sergey Artemiev, Alexandra Soldatova, Denis Shulepov, and Ksenia Yurkova – and of David Fathi and Salvatore Vitale, international artists whose works we have been wanting to show in Russia.

Amplitude, various photographers, published by FotoDepartament
This spring we released our first printed publication – Amplitude, a set of 10 books bringing together 10 artists working with photography. In the autumn Amplitude made it onto the shortlist of The 2017 Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards, and now we feel included both locally in Russia and internationally.

With the popularisation of such projects, borders and exclusion disappear. Now our book speaks for itself by circulating within Aperture’s exhibition, by meeting its purchasers, by being put on bookshelves, and by finding homes in collections of libraries, universities and other institutions. The feedback and the dialogue it brought us with publishers and colleagues gave us confidence in the need to continue, and we’re already developing Amplitude No2.

This summer we launched an online educational platform, reforming traditional approaches to photography education. Projection is a consistent set of courses, but it also give space to aggregate opinions about events and publications. We hope the combination of the two – education and media – will intensively stimulate photographic processes.

Nicholas Muellner’s In most tides an island, published by SPBH 
This book is interesting not only because of the way it highlights our country’s landscape. In an era of short attention spans, it’s risky to publish a book in which text and images are equally important. Putting them into a photographic context is even dicier. Nevertheless, In most tides an island reads as both a high-grade novel and a photobook. The text leads the plot, and the photographs complement its narrative without being just illustrations. The book is an outstanding example of how photography and text enrich each other.

Daniel Tkachenko’s series Motherland
The end of the year was marked by one of the most vivid debates of recent times, stemming from Daniel Tkachenko’s series Motherland. His project addresses urbanisation in Russia – both forced and voluntary – via images of burning buildings, and it became widely discussed after an interview with the artist was published on, the independent online publication. Whether you like Tkachenko’s work or not, the discussion around him can’t be ignored, with artists, journalists priests, lawyers and many others all pitching in to comment. In the interview, Tkachenko said he would burn only abandoned and derelict houses.