The PhotoBook

January 20, 2009

Alexey Titarenko – Photographs

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Books — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:26 pm

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Photographs copyright of Alexey Titarenko, courtesy Nailya Alexander Gallery

One of the benefits of providing book reviews at the beginning of year, is that there are few new publication releases, thus a big leeway to discuss previously published books. Such as the opportunity to review Alexey Titarenko’s Photographs, published in 2003 by Nailya Alexander Gallery, from which this wonderful book is still available.

This is a delightfully designed and printed 9 1/2 x 9 1/2″ softbound book with stiff covers, it has 106 pages, with 56 black and white photographs, and a number of which with a slight sepia toning. The essay that accompanies the book, which continues through and provides us with a dialog about this body of work, is by Gabriel Bauret, with the text in both English and French. This running discussion through the book  is in stark contrast with current photographic books, which are almost completely devoid of any constructional text.

The book draws from four photographic series that Titarenko created while living in St Petersburg, his place of birth. He has created a story about  St Petersburg as it progresses from Leningrad, a part of the USSR, to the present and possibily its future. And to that extent, it is also about the people and society of Russia.

We do not clearly see the people who make up this society, as Titarenko used long exposures and camera movement, to capture a glimpse of their essense and existence. They are like ghosts moving through the pages of history.  His intent is to try to bring an element of time into the images and create an emotional connection to the cultural changes that occurred.

In fact, Titarenko explicitly states that his work is very metaphoric and highly dependent upon his attempts to introduce the element of time into a two dimensional image. He wants to try to elicit an emotional reaction in the reader that might correlate with his own personal feelings.

The book starts with dark images that create a foreboding and depressive condition, similar to the dire living conditions of those trying to survive in Leningrad at the time. Then the political changes occur, which shapes the emotional stability of the city, now St Petersburg.  First the emergence of new hope, then followed by sad disappointment, but eventually new hope again and finally a future with promise.

He has provided a unique vision about how it felt to live through those days, an overall feeling of what the conditions were like. His photographs are breathtakingly beautiful, and they touch my inner soul. I had seen a fair number of Ttiarenko’s photographs before reading this book, and there was that immediate recall and recollection of those first feelings.

The dark despair I felt while looking at his photograph of the sea of bodies slowly making their way up the stairs, touching the railing, a slow moving mass, going somewhere. Symbolic of a painfull march, slowly moving forward. Titarenko reinforced that mood with a predominate use of middle grays, with no white highlights to provide relief. A gray day, a gray period in time, one that you would not willingly want to return to.

As the book progresses, Titarenko brings in a new element, a subtle area of warm sepia tonality, to metaphorically signify Hope. Concurrently he slowly introduces a longer tonal range to his photographs, to reduce the predominate heavy, middle gray of his earlier photographs. Increasing the image contrast in conjunction with the delicately applied sepia toning, does provide an uplifting feeling, especially after the series of the darkly foreboding earlier photographs.

He then ends the book with large groups of people enjoying the beach, having the opportunity to enjoy life. Metaphorically, as they bask in the sun in their bathing suits, they seem to have far fewer burdens, as their loads are now much “lighter”. Like wise the prints have a full tonal range, implying a normalcy, with both the white highlights and some true blacks. It creates a place you would like to spend some time and come back to enjoy again.

Titarenko’s book also incorporates colors of red, black, pale blue into both the text pages and breaks, to further emphaise his story and intent. The additional color creates a wonderful elment to the book. The occasional full bleeds do not detract from the content of the images and nothing is lost in the gutters. Nicely designed and printed.

 Recommended.

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Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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8 Comments »

  1. [...] relevant to a story, .e.g a story line.  If I liken my series to a story in a similar manner as Titarenko and Fleuret’s recent books, then it would seem relevant to want to create some kind of [...]

    Pingback by Insomnia series - how narrative? « Singular Images — January 25, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  2. You can listen to a great 12-minute audio interview with Alexey Titarenko at Lens Culture:

    http://www.lensculture.com/titarenko.html

    Comment by Jim Casper — March 6, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

  3. [...] relevant to a story, .e.g a story line.  If I liken my series to a story in a similar manner as Titarenko and Fleuret’s recent books, then it would seem relevant to want to create some kind of [...]

    Pingback by Insomnia Series - How Narrative? - January 25, 2009 « Insomnia: Hotel Noir — April 13, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

  4. This is a great book. I also did a short review of it on Cork Analogue photographers website.
    Just found your site via A Photo Editor. Keep up the good work!
    – Rory

    http://corkap.worpress.com

    Comment by corkap — June 9, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

  5. oops left out the d in wordpress above! – http://corkap.wordpress.com

    Comment by corkap — June 9, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  6. [...] No último post falei sobre minha nova descoberta, o fotógrafo Alexey Titarenko. Naquele dia em que pesquisei sobre o artista, li um interessante artigo sobre o seu livro: [...]

    Pingback by Alexey Titarenko – Book « Luciaadverse's Blog — December 7, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

  7. Saw this book at the Nailya booth at the recent Paris Photo fair – unfortunately the book is out of print. Some of Titarenko’s images were also on display, and they are beautiful and arresting.

    Comment by angelinahue — November 19, 2013 @ 6:15 am

  8. […] Alexey Titarenko – Photographs en thephotobook (EN [6f]), […]

    Pingback by Alexey Titarenko | Cada d — July 22, 2014 @ 6:40 am


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