New East Digital Archive

Russian photographers go back to black at Arles festival

Russian photographers go back to black at Arles festival
Nikolai Bakharev, Relationship series (1988-1989). Photograph: Courtesy of the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

9 July 2013

Photographers Nikolai Bakharev and Alexander Slyusarev are representing Russia at this year’s Les Rencontres d’Arles, one of the world’s pre-eminent photography events. This year’s focus is on black-and-white photography and its relevance in today’s world.

Bakharev’s Relationship, a body of photographic work shot between the Eighties and the Nineties, provides a lyrical insight into Soviet holiday resorts at a time when it was illegal to take photographs containing bare flesh. His photographs, taken with a medium format camera, capture holidaymakers eager to have their portraits taken. The result is a series of images that are part-social documentary, part-erotica.

Working in the Sixties, Slyusarev’s rejected socialist realism, the dominant artistic style at the time, in favour of a much more minimalist aesthetic. Instead of images of heroic men and women that glorified Soviet achievements, Slyusarev’s sober style focused on composition, light and shadow. The recurrence of windows in his photographs expresses the artist’s deep desire to escape the confines of the Iron Curtain.

Olga Sviblova, founder of the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow, nominated the two photographers to represent Russia at the festival in Arles. The two exhibitions will run until the end of the festival on 22 September.