The PhotoBook Journal

January 20, 2009

Alexey Titarenko – Photographs

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


Photographer: Alexey Titarenko copyright 2003 courtesy Nailya Alexander Gallery

One of the benefits of providing book reviews at the beginning of year is that there are very few new publication releases at this time of year and a big leeway to discuss previously published books. One such opportunity is a review of Alexey Titarenko’s Photographs published in 2003 by Nailya Alexander Gallery. Amazing 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 and has 106 pages with 56 black & white photographs and a number of which have a slight sepia toning. The essay by Gabriel Bauret that accompanies the book provides a running dialog about this body of work with the text in both English and French.

There are 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 possibly looking toward its future. It is also about the people and society of Russia.

We do not clearly see the people who make up this society as Titarenko uses long exposures and camera movement to capture a glimpse of their essence and existence. His subjects appear similar to 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 occur.

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 called St Petersburg.  First the emergence of new hope and then followed by sad disappointment with eventually new hope again appearing again leading finally to a future with promise.

He has provided a unique vision about how it felt to live through those days as 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 as a slow moving mass going somewhere. Symbolic of a painful march that is slowly moving forward. Titarenko reinforced that mood with a predominate use of middle grays with no white highlights to provide visual relief. A gray day during a gray period in time that one would not willingly want to return to.

As the book progresses Titarenko brings in a new element as 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 earlier series of the darkly foreboding photographs.

He then ends the book with large groups of people enjoying the beach and having the opportunity to enjoy life. Metaphorically as they bask in the sun in their bathing suits his subjects seem to have far fewer burdens symbolically their loads are now much “lighter”. The final set of the photographs have a full tonal range implying a normalcy with both the white highlights and some true blacks. It creates a place I 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 section breaks to create further emphases for his narrative. The additional color creates a wonderful element 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.


Best regards, Douglas Stockdale








  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:

    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

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

  5. oops left out the d in wordpress above! –

    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

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: