Black and White Magic of St. Petersburg (1995 - 1997)

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Near Lion Bridge, St. Petersburg, 1997
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Black Cats, St. Petersburg, 1997
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Tuchkov Pereulok, St. Petersburg, 1996
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Stranger, St. Petersburg, 1996
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Evening snow, St. Petersburg, 1996
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Woman on the corner, St. Petersburg, 1995
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Turkish Bridge, St. Petersburg, 1995
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Sunlight, St. Petersburg, 1995
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Sunrays, St. Petersburg, 1995
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

Woman with umbrella, St. Petersburg, 1995
Gelatin silver print, printed by the artist

"...Once, I came across a book, which for some reason slipped my attention in the past. It was Fyodor Dostoevsky’s early stories...I opened the book at random; the story – White Nights – captivated me so fully that I kept reading it over and over again. Dostoevsky seemed to have read my thoughts. Deeply inspired by this piece, I decided to make a new series of photographs based on the story. For the epigraph, I took the following citation from the story:

 

'There are, Nastenka, though you may not know it, strange nooks in Petersburg. It seems as though the same sun that shines for all Petersburg people does not peep into those spots, but some other different, new one, as if bespoken expressly for those nooks, and it throws a different light on everything. In these corners, dear Nastenka, a quite a different life is lived, quite unlike the life that is surging round us. But such as perhaps exists in some unknown realm, not among us in our serious, overserious, time. Well, that life is a mixture of something purely fantastic, feverently ideal, with something (alas! Nastenka) dingly prosaic and ordinary, not to say incredibly vulgar… Listen Nastenka. Let me tell you that in these corners live strange people – dreamers.'"

 

Alexey Titarenko, from an interview with SHOTS magazine, 2005

Biography

Alexey Titarenko was born in Leningrad in 1962. At age 15, he became the youngest member of the independent photo club Zerkalo (Mirror). He graduated from the Department of Cinematic and Photographic Art at Leningrad’s Institute of Culture in 1983. His series of collages and photomontages Nomenklatura of Signs (first exhibited in 1988 in Leningrad) is a commentary on the Communist regime as an oppressive system hat converts citizens into mere signs. In 1989, Nomenklatura of Signs was included in Photostroyka, a major show of new Soviet photography that toured the US.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 he produced several series of photographs about the human condition of the Russian people during this time and the suffering they endured throughout the twentieth century. To illustrate links between the present and the past, he created powerful metaphors by introducing long exposure and intentional camera movement into street photography. The most well known series of this period is City of Shadows. In some images urban landscapes reiterate the Odessa Steps (also known as the Potemkin Stairs) scene from Sergei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin. Inspired by the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky, he also translated Dostoevsky’s version of the Russian soul into sometimes poetic, sometimes dramatic pictures of his native city, Saint Petersburg.

Titarenko’s St. Petersburg body of work from the 1990s won him worldwide recognition. In 2002 the International Photography Festival at Arles, France presented this work at the Reattu Museum in the exhibition, “Les quatres mouvements de St. Petersburg” curated by Gabriel Bauret. In 2005, the French-German TV Channel Arte produced a 30-minute documentary about Titarenko titled Alexey Titarenko: Art et la Maniere.

Titarenko’s prints are subtly crafted in the darkroom. Bleaching and toning add depth to his nuanced palette of grays, rendering each print a unique interpretation of his experience and imbuing his work with a personal and emotive visual character. This particular beauty was recently emphasized during the exhibition of his prints from his Havana series at the Getty Museum (Los Angeles, May-October 2011).

His works are in the collections of major European and American museums, including The State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg); The Getty Museum (Los Angeles); the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art; George Eastman House (Rochester, N.Y.); the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston); The Museum of Fine Arts (Columbus, Ohio); the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston); the Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego); the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College (Mass.); the European House of Photography (Paris); the Southeast Museum of Photography (Daytona Beach, Fla.); the Santa Barbara Museum of Fin Arts (Cal.); the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University (N.J.); the Reattu Museum of Fine Arts (Arles); and the Musee de l’Elysee Museum for Photography (Lausanne).

Selected Exhibitions

2017
Alexey Titarenko: The City is a Novel, Damiani Gallery, Bologna, Italy

2015
Alexey Titarenko: Photographs from St. Petersburg (1991-1999), Galerie C, Neufchâtel, Switzerland
Alexey Titarenko: St. Petersburg in Four Movements, Manège Royal, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris, France
Le parfums dans tous les sens, Jardins du Palais Royal, Paris, France

2012
Contemporary Russian Photography: Perestroika Liberalization and Experimentation, Fotofest, Houston, TX

2011
A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Alexey Titarenko: Photographs 1986-2010, Lodz International Fotofest. Atlas Sztuki Gallery, Lodz, Poland
Soviet Photography in the 1980s from the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection, Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ

2010
Alexey Titarenko: Petersburg in Black & White, Late Revelations, Moscow International Photobiennale, Pobeda Gallery, Moscow, Russia

2008
Unfulfilled Time, curated by Gabriel Bauret, Thessaloniki Photo Biennale, Greece

2007
Vital signs: Place, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
DE L’EUROPE. Photographies, essais, histoires", Centre National Audiovisuel de Luxembourg, Luxembourg

2004
St. Petersburg: City of Water and City of Shadows, FotoFest, Houston, TX

2002
Alexey Titarenko: Four Movements of St. Petersburg, Reattu Museum, Arles International Photography Festival, Arles, France
Time Regained: Fragments from St. Petersburg series, Manezh Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow, Russia

2000
Alexey Titarenko, Retrospective Exhibition, Galerie Municipale du Chateau d’eau, Festival Garonne, Toulouse, France

1996
Black and White Magic of St Petersburg, Month of European Culture in St. Petersburg, The Grand Hall of St. Petersburg Philharmonic Society, St. Petersburg

1993
Nomenklatura of Signs, Photopostcriptum project, State Russian Musuem, St. Petersburg, Russia

1990
Photostroyka: New Soviet Photography, Burden Gallery, Aperture Foundation, New York (followed by a three‐year U.S. tour)