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New York Public Library, 2017
58th Street, New York, 2012
Midtown Sunrise, 2018, Toned gelatin silver print
Morningside Park, New York, 2015
Corner La Esquina, New York, 2013
Couple with Umbrella, New York, 2014
Fifth Avenue, New York, 2010
Fire Alarm Box, Little Italy, New York, 2013
Domino Factory, New York, 2011
Bryant Park, New York, 2004
Chrysler Building, New York, 2005
Sail, New York, 2011
Lower East Side, New York, 2010
Streetlight on Bowery, New York, 2010
125th Street Subway, New York, 2008
Train, Williamsburg, New York, 2011

“Alexey Titarenko first came to New York in 2002, but he wasn’t in a hurry to make pictures of the city. He was already in the midst of investigating the urban environments of both Venice and Havana. The photographer eventually moved to New York and came to know the city through long walks and close observation. New York proved unlike his previous subjects; its rapid growth in the twentieth century, the rise of towering skyscrapers of glass and steel that dominate the skyline of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn, along with the street grid designed by urban planners two hundred years ago, has profoundly impacted the physical look and psychology of its inhabitants. The high-rise buildings on the grid have a dramatic effect at street level, creating canyons with sharp shafts of light and shadow. The verticality of the city, with its curtain walls, tends to obscure any sense of community or common history. To the casual observer, the city can feel cold and impersonal. However, from his home in Harlem, the photographer’s meanderings revealed neighborhoods and a more intimate city whose citizens pursued their personal orbits. 

“Beginning in 2004, Titarenko slowly began to photograph New York, but he only truly took up the city as his subject after 2010. His work in New York continues today, but it is already possible to compare some of his latest images with his earlier bodies of work. Titarenko remains a Symbolist photographer. Using time exposure and darkroom technique, his goal is still to create a print that expresses his experience when creating the image. As Irina Tchmyreva has written, his photographs “paint with symbols, lifting them to the surface from the murk of reality.” With New York as his subject thus far, the built environment assumes a stronger presence. Several images, including Domino Factory and Sail, both from 2011, make use of wide horizons, creating distant viewpoints uncommon in previous work. Even the images that are reminiscent of previous work made at street level with ghostly traces of passersby, such as 58th Street, 2012, and Fifth Avenue, 2010, reflect the dominance of New York’s architecture over the individual.

“For Titarenko, each city and its people dictate the images he creates. His images reflect his attempt to reach a deeper understanding of place through the effects of history. It should not be surprising, then, that Titarenko’s vision of New York resonates with the work of Alvin Langdon Coburn and Alfred Stieglitz—men who strived to embody the dynamism of the city and its people in photographs at the turn of the twentieth century. As Titarenko’s relationship with New York grows and changes, so too will the photographs he creates. It is the nature of his working method.”

Sean Corcoran, Curator of Prints and Photographs, Museum of the City of New York
From the essay “New World,” as published in The City is a Novel (Damiani, 2015)

Titarenko's New York series was exhibited at Nailya Alexander Gallery in "New York: Stieglitz to Titarenko," 2012, and in "Alexey Titarenko: New York," 2015. Prints from this series can be found in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, which also included this series in the 2020 exhibition "Collecting New York's Stories."

Biography

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.

Born in 1962 in Leningrad, present-day St. Petersburg, Titarenko began taking photographs at a young age and studied in the Department of Cinematic and Photographic Art at Leningrad’s Institute of Culture. He had his first professional success with his series Nomenklatura of Signs (1986-1991), a biting critique of the Soviet bureaucracy that drew on the aesthetics of Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and other artists of the early 20th-century Russian avant-garde. Working in secret, Titarenko conceived the series as a way to translate the visual reality of Soviet life into a language that expressed its absurdity, and to expose the Communist regime as an oppressive system that converted citizens into mere signs. In 1989, Nomenklatura of Signs was included in Photostroyka, a major show of new Soviet photography that toured the United States.

Titarenko rose to international prominence in the early 1990s for City of Shadows, a series of photographs of his native city made in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union and inspired by the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Titarenko’s application of long exposures, intentional camera movement, and expert printmaking techniques to street photography produced a powerful meditation on an urban landscape still suffused with a history of suffering. In the decade that followed, his pursuit of the city of his youth led him as far afield as Venice — St. Petersburg has been called "the Venice of the North" due to its canals and to the influence of the European architects who helped build the city — and Havana, whose streets and buildings remain frozen in the Soviet era.

For the past eight years, Titarenko has turned his lens toward a very different city: New York. In this work, Titarenko brings his longstanding concerns with time and history to bear on a relatively young city known for its relentless, headlong pace. Titarenko’s distinctive long exposures and selective toning highlight the way that architecture not only gives form to the lives of a city’s inhabitants, but also stands as an embodiment of its history. Even in New York, time stands still, if just for a moment: in the defunct fire alarm boxes still posed on busy street corners; in turn-of-the-century façades adorned with the multivalent, overlapping signage of the modern era; and in buildings like the Domino Sugar Factory, a powerful example of the city’s rich past meeting its implacable present.

In 2015, Titarenko’s first monograph, The City is a Novel, was published by Damiani and selected by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best photobooks of the year. For Titarenko, the city not only shapes and influences each individual’s mindset and point of view; it is also a creative force, the stage for narratives in which each of us becomes his or her own distinct character. As he writes in the book, “Universal emotions perpetuated during the last century…constitute the main themes of my photographs, to the extent of transforming the most documentary among them into elements of a novel — not reportage, but a novel, whose central theme is the human soul.”

Titarenko creates each print by hand in his darkroom, producing a rich, subtle range of tones that renders each piece unique. Such masterful printing is particularly suited to Titarenko’s longtime interest in water and its relationship to the city, bringing out the texture and reflective quality of snow, rain, clouds, and urban harbors and waterways, and infusing each image with moisture and light.

Titarenko’s photographs have been shown in over thirty solo exhibitions and over forty group exhibitions around the world. His work can be found in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT; the Museum of Fine Arts, Denver; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of the City of New York; the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the George Eastman House, Rochester; the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the European House of Photography, Paris; the Musée Réattu, Arles; the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; the Centre National de l'Audiovisuel, Dudelange, Luxemburg; the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow; and the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, among other museums.

Alexey Titarenko lives and works in New York City. His second major publication, Nomenklatura of Signs, was published by Damiani in 2020 and presents the titular body of work in its entirety for the first time.

Selected Exhibitions

2020
Collecting New York's Stories, the Museum of the City of New York, NY, USA

2018
Zerkalo: Forever After, The State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSPHOTO, St. Petersburg, Russia
Pendulum: Merci e Persone in Movimento, The MAST foundation, Bologna, Italy

2017
Alexey Titarenko: The City is a Novel, Damiani Gallery, Bologna, Italy
Alexey Titarenko: The City is a Novel, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

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
Alexey Titarenko: New York, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

2012
Contemporary Russian Photography: Perestroika Liberalization and Experimentation, Fotofest, Houston, TX
New York: Stieglitz to Titarenko, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

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
Alexey Titarenko: St. Petersburg in Four Movements, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

2008
Temps perdus, curated by Gabriel Bauret, Thessaloniki Photo Biennale, Greece
Alexey Titarenko: Venice, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

2007
Vital signs: Place, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
DE L’EUROPE. Photographies, essais, histoires", Centre National Audiovisuel de Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Alexey Titarenko: Havana, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

2006
Northern Lights, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

2004
St. Petersburg: City of Water and City of Shadows, FotoFest, Houston, TX
Alexey Titarenko: Time Standing Still, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

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
Le Temps Inachevé, Nei Liicht Gallery, Dudelange, Luxemburg
Nomenklatura of Signs (audiovisual projection), Keep the light on..., Centre National de l'Audiovisuel, Clerveaux Castle, Luxemburg
Magician of St. Petersburg, Garry Edwards Gallery, Washington, DC, USA
Biarritz Terre d'Images, Biarritz, France

1999
Ville des Ombres: Alexey Titarenko, photographies, Musée de Nice, Galeries des Ponchettes, Nice, France

1995
New Soviet Photography, Karlsruhe Art Museum, Karlsruhe, Germany
Self-Identification, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway

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

1994
City of Shadows, Gallery 21, Cultural Center Pushkinskaya 10, St. Petersburg, Russia

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

1992
Experiences photographiques russes, Month of Photography in Paris, Grand Ecran, Paris, France
Nomenklatura of Signs (audiovisual projection), Centre National de Photographie, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France

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

1989
Nomenklatura of Signs, Ligovka-199 Exhibition Hall, Leningrad, USSR
Visages de Leningrad, Drouart Gallery, Paris, France

1983, 1986, 1988
Solo exhibitions, Nevskiy Prospekt 90, Leningrad, USSR

1979
Annual review exhibitions of Zerkalo Photographic Club, Kirov Palace of Culture, Leningrad, USSR

1978
Zerkalo Photographic Club Second Exhibition, Kirov Palace of Culture, Leningrad, USSR
Leningrad from another side, Zerkalo Photographic Club, Kirov Palace of Culture, Leningrad, USSR