Stakle recently won the New East Photo Prize organised by Calvert 22 Foundation, with a series titled Heavy Waters. Shot in Crimea in 2011, the series shows towns and villages scattered along the coast on the Crimean Peninsula – an area that was at the time part of Ukraine, but which became part of Russia after the Ukraine-Russia crisis in 2014. To date, Crimea remains an internationally unrecognised part of Russia. Crimea was one of the most popular resorts of the Soviet Union but, says Stakle, “being on the crossroads of trade routes has always been risky”. “Since times immemorial, the Crimean Peninsula has been coveted by different countries, near and far,” he writes in his introduction to the series.
“If you live in Russia, you’re taught to love your family, and love your nation. It’s part of your life and education, we even have classes teaching patriotism at school,” says Alexander Anufriev, whose new project takes a closer look at what makes a modern Russia.
The idea for Russia Close-up came while he was studying at The Rodchenko Art School in Moscow, and starting to feel disillusioned with documentary photography. “At the time, it was important for me to tell stories and for them to be the truth, but it started to feel like a little bit of a lie,” he explains. “Even if you’re trying to be totally objective, it is always a bit subjective.
“I stopped shooting for six months, and I was about to quit photography, but then I thought, ‘What if I tried to be completely subjective?’ So I cropped the images very tightly, and included only the elements I wanted to show. It was a farewell to convention.” Unconventional it may be, but the series has already had some success, exhibited in Cardiff, Sydney, and Saint Petersburg, and winning third place in the Moscow Photobookfest Dummy book award.
“When I became a parent, I had the idea to make a photographic book for children,” says Russian photographer Andrey Ivanov, who has won the Photobookfest Dummy prize. “I started to photograph subjects and images of Russian fairy tales. At first it was a series of purely staged photos, but then I began to notice that some of the documentary photos I found fitted perfectly into this fabulous series.
“The fairy tale is the most authentic source of Russian archetypes. As the saying goes: ‘A fairy tale is a lie – yet there is a hint in it, a good lesson to good fellows’. The viewer follows the photographic tracks of the main hero of the fairy tale, referring to the cultural codes of the collective unconscious, and guesses or recognises the fairy-tale images, or hints of them.”
This year marked the 100th anniversary to the October Revolution; the Bolshevik coup lead by Vladamir Lenin that would result in the Russian Civil War (1917-22) and, ultimately, the foundation of the USSR and the communist regime that lasted until 1991. In the BJP’s latest issue, we try to understand something of the vast history of the Eastern Bloc.
Founded in 2006 by photographer and curator Olga Korsunova, art-manager and photography critic Nadya Sheremetova, and art historian Elena Zyrianova, FotoDepartament is a gallery, bookshop, library and education hub in St. Petersburg, Russia. Aiming to promote and develop contemporary Russian photography at home and abroad, FotoDepartament runs many events, exhibitions and workshops, and represents internationally-recognised artists such as Kirill Savchenkov, Irina Yulieva, and Jana Romanova. FotoDepartament is also currently running several digital projects. Now it’s started a publishing project called Amplitude, creating photobooks of emerging Russian photographers’ work which can be read individually, or gathered together into groups. Amplitude No.1 includes photobooks by Alexey Bogolepov, Margo Ovcharenko, Irina Zadorozhnaia, Anastasia Tsayder, Igor Samolet, Yury Gudkov, Olya Ivanova, Irina Ivannikova, Anastasia Tailakova, and Irina Yulieva. BJP caught up with Nadya Sheremetova to find out more
Maria Gruzdeva is no stranger to remote and solitary parts of the world. Her last book, The Borders of Russia, saw her travel more than 6000km along the border of her home country, documenting the isolated communities at its edges. While shooting it she came across the near-forgotten town of Tkvarcheli, and became so intrigued it turned into a spin-off project in its own right. Her work on it has now been published as a photobook, The Song of Tkvarcheli, funded by the Gabriele Basilico International Prize in Architecture and Landscape Photography. “In the Soviet era, the region was widely known for its opulent nature, salubrious climate, seaside resorts and sanatoriums,” says Gruzdeva; Tkvarcheli was once heralded as one of the most perfectly designed towns in this feted area. “In better times, working and living in Tkvarcheli was regarded a privilege – not just by miners, but by engineers and academics as well,” she explains. “The town was created to embody a dream. An idea to create a perfect city pervaded the minds of Soviet architects …
“I meet people with more empathy and more care towards one another in war situations or in conflict around the world than I have ever experienced in Europe. People want to share the little they have with me because I have talked to them and shown an interest in them,” says Jan Grarup. His work has taken him to the sites of the worst conflicts – from obvious examples such as Iraq and Iran, to forgotten areas like the Central African Republic. Each place he visits, he stays to learn about the culture and customs of the people before taking their photographs. In these places of despair and destruction, Grarup often finds hope and resilience. But the Western world needs to be more active and share the responsibility to help these regions return to a peaceful existence.
In 2011, Chatelin, a successful photojournalist and author of the photobook Israel Borderline (2008), was sent to Libya to cover the uprising at the beginning of the war. After a few months he became frustrated with the work he was producing and decided to head in a different direction. Switching to a large format camera, he travelled to the Egyptian desert and began looking at the impact of shifting economies on the landscape and territories surrounding the nucleus of action. This work has also seen explorations to Detroit, western China and Siberia, which, like Egypt and Libya, are places with diverse histories and contrasting geographies but which are fixed in outside perceptions with a single vision.
Born in Denmark in 1976, Jacob Aue Sobol studied at the Fatamorgana Danish School of Art Photography from 1998-1999. In Autumn 1999, he went to live in the Tiniteqilaaq settlement in Greenland, and mainly stayed with his Greenlandic girlfriend Sabine and her family for the next three years. The resulting book, Sabine, was published in 2004, and nominated for the 2005 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. In 2005, Aue Sobol travelled with a film crew to Guatemala, to make a documentary about a young Mayan girl’s first journey to the ocean. The following year he returned alone and he met the indigenous Gomez-Brito family, and stayed with them for a month. His story on the family won the Daily Life Stories award in the 2006 World Press Photo. In 2006 he moved to Tokyo, and shot a series of images that won the 2008 Leica European Publishers Award. I, Tokyo was published by Actes Sud (France), Apeiron (Greece), Dewi Lewis Publishing (Great Britain), Edition Braus (Germany), Lunwerg Editores (Spain) and Peliti Associati (Italy). Sobol became a nominee at Magnum Photos in 2007, and a full member in 2012. Aue …
“With this exhibition, I will reveal something different to what Western and British society has seen about Syria,” says Sergey Ponomarev. “Most of the visual narratives that come from Syria are shot from the rebel side – people suffering from the government shelling, suffering malnutrition or lack of water, and just recently being attacked with chemical weapons. I will show images from normal life.” The Pulitzer Prize-winner is talking about his upcoming exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London A Lens on Syria, in which he’s showing two award-winning series created in partnership with The New York Times – Assad’s Syria (2013-2014) and Europe Migration Crisis (2015-2016). His mission, he says, is “to be the eyes of society”. Ponomarev has been following the Arab Spring since 2011, when anti-government protests first started to emerge in Syria but he says that from the start, “it was clear that photojournalist with Russian background couldn’t join the rebels”. Historically the Soviet Union supported the Syrian government and that remains the case today; “when the Free Syrian army clustered into several Jihadi groups, some …