Click here to read Titarenko’s essay City of Shadows, published in The City is a Novel (Damiani, 2015), in which he describes his coming-of-age as an artist, the social and political context of his work, and some of his greatest influences, in particular Dostoyevsky and Shostakovich.
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 that 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 Baltimore Museum of Art (MD); 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); MAST Foundation, Bologna, Italy; the Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego); the Berkeley Art Museum at University of California, Berkeley; the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College (Mass.); the Denver Art Museum (CO); 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).