Russian Photography Today

A link to the ongoing call for work "My Own Wilderness" made it's way onto the Russian art website Art Nagrada, and as a result over 35 submissions have been received from that country. The submitted work has almost entirely come from young photographers living in Moscow and St Petersburg. I started to wonder about the current state of photography in Russia, so I asked a few of the contributors to send me their thoughts on the subject. I have corrected a bit of the English translation here only when necessary, leaving as much of the direct information from the photographer intact. I think these are marvelous windows into the world of Russian photography. Many thanks to Katya and Alena for sharing these well considered essays, and to all of the amazing young Russian photographers who have contributed to this call for work.

Commonness, Russia, Kostrova
by Alena Agadzikova, Moscow

Alena Agadzikova, 18 years old,  Moscow

I can not say what the situation of photography is in all RUSSIA , because I live in the capital, Moscow. You know, in Russia there is a joke - "Moscow - Russia is not,"  And indeed it is. Moscow - a lively city where people live in the information. Province of Russia live quite differently. In some cities, living as if still the Soviet Union. However, a mistake to think that the Russians go with the bears and vodka. Of course, we love vodka! But even in the remote province of many appropriate people. It was not long since, as Russia has to keep pace with progress. At the far ends of the country's Internet appeared only a year ago. And mass-regarded photography, art, people have started too recently.
Because of the Internet, to be a photographer in Russia has become fashionable. Buy cameras, even those who do not know how to use them. In small towns, "photographers" are beginning to respect and be invited to various events. Although images poorly photographed. They become local celebrities. But the same province and the people have no taste. Someone has taste, but there is not enough. In Moscow, everything is different. 100% of photographers shoot only 8-10% because it is their vocation, and passion. These people take pictures good. all the other 90% do so for the sake of fashion.
Recently, a good many photographers are returning back to film photography. It takes a lot of money, but it paid off. Photographers are increasingly taking pictures with old Russian cameras, "Zenith", "FED", "Lyubitel'"
Moscow is now actively promoting the art of photography. In the center there are two places where young writers can exhibit their work (if they approve, if they are talented). There are hundreds of small galleries, but they are not the same. 

1. "Contemporary Art Center Wine Factory" - "winery," because the center is built right into the former factory where they made wine. In Moscow there is an entire government program from the Department of Culture, according to which all former factories in places rebuilt Culture. 

2. "Moscow House of Photography" - State Exhibition Hall, the largest in Moscow.Brought there by Fellini, "More than fashion," Jurgen Taylor and many other photographers. The permanent exhibition there are always works of the famous Russian photographer, in whose honor and created the "Moscow House of Photography." This photographer named Alexander Rodchenko. He photographed in 1920-1940 years. His most famous portraits - a portrait of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik women. Portrait of Mayakovsky, Brik and a portrait of Lily, where she puts a hand to his lips - 

But in "Moscow House of Photography" is difficult to exhibit their work. There may exhibit only the students' school photos. "School of Photography Rodchenko " - the only serious Academy pictures in Russia. They are taught the most powerful Russian photographers. The Academy is notable that students learn (they are trained for two and a half years) there for free. .In September, ends in a set of portfolios. Each year the academy are trying to do about 700-800 people. Of these, 30 people are choosing to do.

I came to the academy for two years. Unfortunately, unsuccessfully. But the teachers explained the reason: they choose the students who graduated from university and engaged in photography professionally. I do not really understand this principle, I think it's wrong, because you have to enable even the youngest photographers. For example, I'm 18 years old. I came to the Academy at seventeen and eighteen years.Incidentally, in this academy despise fashion photography. They consider it a bad grade. With this, too, is debatable. Teachers Academy is very outdated attitudes, they are professionals, but do not look at the present.

Katya Deriglazova

Katya Deriglazova, 30 yrs old,  Moscow

Russian Photography Today
From the Point of View of a Spherical Cow

Who is a Spherical Cow, you ask? That’s me. Not an art expert, neither a student nor a bachelor of art, I have never had a personal exhibition or a display of my photographs and I earn money from a partly art-related job, rather than art itself. I don’t consider myself a follower of any artistic schools and I seldom, if ever, appear at the photographers’ hangouts. I mostly sit on the sidelines and watch what is going on with Photography in Russia these days.
It will be only logical to ask why I, being interested in photography as an art, haven’t got a solid opinion on many of its aspects. I guess the answer lies in my living right on the borderline of two different generations. While born and raised in the Soviet state, I’ve spent my mature years in the current Russia, and these are two completely different cultures.
Photography has never been considered an art among the Russians. A hobby or a part of journalist’s work: that’s what a photographer’s options were in the Soviet times. But even now there are no schools or colleges suitable for a person willing to become a photo artist. It seems all they teach these days is either how to become a photo journalist or how to win a grant for studying or working abroad.
I guess it was only after the Perestroika that photography was allowed to “become” an art. Then post-modern artists appeared, seeking not only “pure art”, but commercial success as well. And then it turned out that the only way to reach the latter was to go west and try selling your art there. But what does the Western world buy from a post-Soviet photographer most willingly? That’s right, the “social exotics”: abandoned villages, communal apartments, beggars and prostitutes, bums and lunatics. Everything that shows that life in Russia is not as good as the Soviet propaganda used to say. Sadly, this demand is still up even twenty years after.
As an ex-journalist and as a person I can’t but respect social art; I truly believe that the world can be changed for the better if we don’t turn a blind eye to what is not right. But I cannot approve of the fact that “social art” and “seamy side” are becoming more and more synonymous.
Sometimes I wish there were at least a few people among the modern photographers who would show us the bright side instead… but no glamour and Gucci suits please.
Besides social and documentary art there’s another group of photographers well-known both in Russia and abroad: the so-called “actual art”, e.g. AES+F group. They are indeed actual, with a little bit of politics, a tiny bite of scandalousness, a great deal of multi-media and a truly remarkable zoom. These artists are supported by both the Government and Moscow House of Photography, but unless anybody powerful approves of you, there is no way you will be considered “contemporary”. The line between art and advertising looks really vague in this case.
Of course, there are the “Pure Art” oriented photographers in Russia. But I am unsure whether they can even be called photographers. They are just artists, with a camera as their tool. Many of them print their photos the old-fashioned way. By the way, in Russia it’s cheaper to cyanotype or oil-print your pictures at home than to order high-quality pics from a public photo lab.
There are also avant-garde photographers, able to manipulate reality on a photo image without using computers or any other tech means.
“Female photography” needs to be mentioned as well, although it is often taken lightly by many fellow photo artists. These works are usually simplistic, with the photographers themselves and their friends as models, streets, parks and old apartments as backgrounds, focusing on self-reflection and on finding beauty in mundanity and everyday life.
Lately, analog technology in photography has become popular again both among amateurs and professionals. As today’s digital cameras allow anyone to make high-quality photos, people tend to look for some craftwork, for unique and hand-made photographs.
One of the most acute questions is whether Russian national photography exists at all. I can see why the question appeared in the first place. Seems like these days everybody’s talking about studying abroad, working abroad, leaving Russia for a place where one’s talent would be valued… This is a defeatist’s tactics, but unfortunately that is what on many of the younger photographers’ minds now. It pains me to see that most of them don’t see any prospects or possibilities in Russia. That’s why we are importing cultural trends rather than exporting them.
Тhat's why the Russian photo considered unfashionable Many young artists are trying to work on those trends that have been marked abroad.

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