The scene I saw today at the Moscow State University brings to mind Vittorio de Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, if only in a very generic sense, though. When I was a student graduating 10 years ago we didn’t have bicycle stands or shelters; the actual culture of cycling to the classes was practically non-existent. Today’s different, as the scene I captured today well illustrates. I first shot it in colour and then changed to monochrome, as it felt more natural that way.
|Julie Delvaux – A Bicycle Stand At the Moscow State University|
It is a bad sign when people stop understanding humour, irony, or joke. – Fyodor Dostoevsky.
This is a rare photographic portrait of Fyodor Dostoevsky, made by his close friend Konstatin Shapiro. The photograph was presented to Jacov Faddeevich Sakhar on 16 December, 1880 with the inscription in Dostoevsky’s own hand.
More about the photo: Lame Duck Books.
I recently went to the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow, and one of the exhibitions currently on display is a show of photographs made with an iPhone by a renowned Russian TV broadcaster, Svetlana Konegen. Born and bred in Saint Petersburg, Svetlana eventually moved to Moscow where she landed a spot on TV with her own programme. I gather that she must now be dividing her time between Moscow and Italy, the latter being the native country of her husband.
|Franco Moroni, Antonio Geusa, Svetlana Konegen (image: RDH)|
The exhibition is titled “Nome. Cose. Citta” (Names. Things. Cities) and follows several Italian towns where Svetlana travelled. She wonders as to exactly what attracts Russians to Italy, concluding that this is a kind of Paradise Regained, especially as far as the artists are concerned. Nikolai Gogol spent years in Rome, Alexander Ivanov travelled throughout Italy, Joseph Brodsky is buried in Venice. It is possible, Svetlana says, that in the process of exploring this country the object and subject constantly swap places: a Russian is constructed by Italy in the same way – and probably at the same time – as Italy is constructed by a Russian. Yet, as far as art is concerned, thanks to modern day technology it has become a truly intergral part of life, so just as David Hockney paints with his iPhone, Svetlana, a classical linguist, has used the same gadget to compose an illustrated diary of fleeting memories, images, and experiences that imbue the Epicurean, Senecan, Renaissance, and 1960s themes. The exhibition is curated by Antonio Geusa and is on display until February 26, 2012.
The photo that captivated me the most was the one to which I couldn’t possibly fail to respond. Having been trained in Medieval and Early Modern History, I first noticed the Latin words. It never registered with me before that Svetlana studied Classical Philology, so at the museum I was simply “impressed”. Later when I realised it was not particularly strange I still marvelled at the fact that there was a place for a Latin dictionary in Svetlana’s life (we obviously have to assume that it is Svetlana, not her husband or somebody else, who was reading this dictionary). What is more peculiar, however, is that this must be a 19th c. Russian edition, or its 20th c. reprint, to judge by the typeface and the Russian language style that was in use before the Revolution.
Frankly, out of all photographs this is probably the most telling and prompting to be contemplated. With a state-of-the-art iPhone in her hand, a 21st century woman is touring through Italy with a 19th c. Russian edition of Latin dictionary. It is as if she is trying to revive the journey of the 19th c. Russians to pay an hommage to the birthplace of the Western imperial culture, the Western law, and much of the art and philosophy. The photo is somehow in sync with the recent years’ fascination with the Russian 19th c., Dostoyevsky, nobility, monarchy, and so on. Whereas the English Grand Tour was mostly about visiting Italy, Russians seem to have always been slightly more attracted to Germany, primarily due to the Universities, so the Russian Grand Tour had its modifications. Yet Italy fascinated the Russians, even though not all were particularly impressed, say, Alexander Blok.
And the page with the words on it is also strangely telling, once you start thinking about it. The words are “consectatio” (pursuit), “consectatrix” (a pursuing female), “consectio” (dismembering), “consector” (to continuously pursue), “consecutio” (consequence), “consenesco” (to grow old). While both Russia and Italy age, Russians are still pursuing Italy as the epitome of Paradise on Earth. Some brave the Venetian vapours, others the Milanese rains, still others bask in the Napolitan sun or chill out in the chic environment of Sardinia, all for the chance to have the glory and luxury of the former Empire to rub off on them.
Et in consectatione eius consenescent?
The sad news about Kodak just shows how easy it is to get swept by “everything going fine” and not to notice that the world has changed and gone in a completely different direction. Anyway, the photos are there, and The Guardian called for our Kodak moments to share. Before 2007 all my photos were taken by Kodak and Konica cameras, and even today I still don’t own an SLC. I blogged some of the photos previously, but it’s such a good opportunity to remind myself – and you – about the times when I had to wait before the photos were printed and then I had to scan them. It was a pain, but knowing it’s no more is sad.
Rastorguevo is, strictly speaking, a small village that people pass as they travel by Aeroexpress on their way to the Domodedovo Airport. It’s only 10 minutes of train travel away from where I live, and 2000s saw the reconstruction of the monastery and the church. My mother and I used to go there on weekends when I was a little girl, we’d usually visit two shops, one that sold everything, from stationery through clothes to furniture; and another that was a village-format version of B&Q.
Dubrovsky is another small village easily accessible from my district by bus. The Gardening Institute is located there, and the river is quite popular. Naturally, people used to go there for swimming and sunbathing. Sadly, as our visit there in October 2010 showed, things have changed dramatically. The Institute has practically closed, and on the opposite bank of the river sprung a quasi-elite settlement, and cars are driving up and down the sloppy roads all the time.
|St. Dunstan’s Church|
|St. Paul’s Cathedral|
4. My first visit to London occurred in April 2004, and I will never forget those two weeks. This isn’t the moment to recap how I felt and what I did. Maybe, had I visited London during my first ever visit to England, my attitude would be different. I look at these pictures, and I see they’re not the usual touristy type of photos. Apparently, the moments of living and walking in London in those April days, especially during Easter, are still very vivid. These are also the photos I’m glad to call mine because they are good – and given the technology that produced them, they certainly say something about me and my aptitude as a photographer.
|London and the Thames from the Millenium Bridge|
5.Last time I went to London with a Kodak camera was in March 2005. It looks like I didn’t scan all the photos, as there were definitely some from The Globe theatre. Anyway, during all my visits I rarely photographed the Thames, so this is a “rare” photo taken from the Millenium Bridge.
6. And finally, the Lake District. I do actually miss England, and I’d happily go to visit Lakeland. There was a flying visit to Carlisle in 2010, and I visited Shap Wells in 2004, but in all my visits there (by car) I never went further than Windermere and Grasmere. I’d gladly go to Keswick.
January 19 (that’s tomorrow) is Epiphany, or the Baptism of Our Lord. All over Moscow there are numerous spots for those who’d like to dip into the ice-cold water. The idea is that on Epiphany all waters transmit sainthood of God Our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, although, of course, in his own days Jesus dipped into the Jordan in the weather conditions nowhere near those in Russia in January. In a way, those who undertake dips on Epiphany in the name of Jesus express a far greater religious zeal than believers from sunnier and warmer places.
|Year 2012. “Help! Any doctors here?” – “I’m a phographer. So am I. Me too. And me”|
Some of the places that the Big City magazine has put on the map are described as an “unorganised places for bathing“, meaning that they are not designed to be used for Epiphany dips. And I was actually thinking of going to take a few photos. Then I saw this picture (right) and remembered a Russian saying: “salvation of the drowning people is in the hands of such people themselves” (i.e. a drowning man saves himself). As we have seen a few times in photos from various events, sometimes tragic, the passion for documenting every second of the event is all-consuming. It gets to the point when the police beat up a young man, and 3 or 4 guys with cameras diligently snap every movement. So, if I go to an “unorganised place for bathing” I may well witness an accident scene because the police aren’t required to be on the spot. Worse still, I won’t be able to do much, apart from dialling 911 because I cannot swim.
Here’s the rub: once there were mere onlookers. Now onlookers have cameras and seek to document every minute detail. Previously they were idle watchers, now they are concentrated on an important task. You can no longer accuse them of standing idly because they may be honest citizen journalists who do the work. See the difference?
|Ivan, Andy, and Soup|
|Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band|
Ivan Lovatt was born in Kenya and then came to live in the UK. For the past 6 years he contributed, as a professional sculptor, his works to private collections, corporations and public exhibitions. His most famous pieces are made of chicken wire: “by layering, twisting and shaping this very ordinary medium Ivan creates both abstract and realistic representations, which are tactile, appealing to the viewer to touch. As Ivan’s skills developed and evolved he was drawn to figurative work, and Ivan began a series of portraits of famous people which candidly demonstrates his superior level of craftsmanship and attention to detail“.
You can visit Ivan’s official website, while here is a small selection of his portraits of famous people. Most of them are instantly recognisable; it seems that Ivan is experimenting more with the medium than the form. However, his portraits of The Beatles and John Lennon reminded me of a series of photographs by an Italian photographer Enzo Rafazzini who was once offered to participate in a project illustrating The Beatles’ lyrics. Rafazzini chose When I’m Sixty-Four.
In the post, though, I’m using The Beatles’ Come Together. I thought the rhythm suits all the images quite nicely.
One thing I wanted to ask Michael Cunningham but couldn’t was the choice of actress type for the role of Clarissa. I was watching Annie Leibovitz doing this interview, and then I went to read about her and found out that she and Susan Sontag were an item for a long time. I don’t know at which point I remembered that in The Hours the blond Clarissa has got a brunette partner, but it made me wonder if this relationship between two remarkable women made its way into the novel, or the film. For Meryl Streep, in big glasses with her mane of blond hair, does resemble Annie.
The retrospective of Annie Leibovitz is currently on show in Moscow. In the 1999 interview to Charlie Rose she was talking about her and Susan Sontag’s book, Women, that showcased females of different ages and walks of life, including Leibovitz’s own mother.
In the words of Richard Avedon, paying attention is the most important thing for a photographer’s work. I would also use reference to the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and say that this close attention signifies the level of involvement and concentration that in turn correspond to the degree of dedication to one’s goal or vocation, broadly speaking. You will see in the interview that he was a very bright and passionate speaker. One point I also picked upon was his longing for “fear” of working with people because this feeling was helping to keep the art of photography alive and keep it crucial. Also, that as one grows older, the different layers of life get peeled away like onion skin. “I don’t go to parties because I’ve been to dinner parties. I don’t read magazines because I’ve worked for magazines. So what’s left? Work. Making your work better. And a few close friends“.