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Malécon, Havana, 2003​
Palm Tree, Havana, 2003​
Square, Broken Car, Havana, 2003​
Sunset (boys playing baseball), Havana, 2003
Girl Sweeping, Havana, 2003
Woman in Doorway, Havana, 2003​
Water Tank, Havana, 2003
Dilemma, Havana, 2006​
Schoolgirls, Havana, 2003
Boy by a Ruined House, Havana, 2003
Street with Wires, Havana, 2006
Rainy Day, Havana, 2006
Sunset, Havana, 2006
Street Vendors, Havana, 2003
La Regente, Havana, 2006​
Balcony, Havana, 2006
Che, Havana, 2003
Soviet Truck ZIL, Havana, 2003​
Beat-up Car, Havana, 2003
Comité de Defensa de la Revolución, Havana, 2003

“In 2003, Titarenko made his first trip to Havana, and there he found a parallel to his childhood experience [in St. Petersburg]. He returned in 2006 to continue exploring the city, lyrically documenting its inhabitants and building the body of work published here...While his pictures depict the capital with few overt references to its politics, the ever-present cues of communist rule and revolutionary past that stud the landscape make inevitable appearances in his work. In one instance, a crumbling wall painted with the likeness of Che is framed, while in another a sign designating a building as a meeting place for the Communist party hangs over an unassuming threshold.

“As a whole, Titarenko’s project is aimed at poetically capturing a state of life in the capital. Through his lens, the metropolis’s inhabitants are seen moving through a dilapidated network of streets and avenues, their identities blurred and shrouded by the photographer’s use of slow shutter speeds. Transformed into anonymous phantoms, they assemble on the city’s streets to conduct their daily activities. Groups of men carefully rig their 1950s American cars, for which no official spare parts are available on the island, while Soviet-era trucks lumber through the narrow streets. Children play impromptu games of ball on the cobblestone plazas and the elderly stare from crumbling balconies down at the life of the city below. Utility lines, strung from apartment to apartment, cascade across the alleys, piercing a warm light that seems to weigh heavily in the atmosphere.

“As he had endeavored in Saint Petersburg, Titarenko has plumbed the soul of the Cuban capital with this body of work, transcending the overly romantic facade most often presented to the American public. Avoiding the gemlike blues and greens commonly associated with the island’s Caribbean beauty, Titarenko shot his project in black and white, emphasizing instead the dusty grays of crumbling concrete that predominate in the city’s outskirts. A master printer, Titarenko subtly crafts his images in the darkroom, toning and bleaching them to add depth and achieve a nuanced palette of silvers. The results imbue his work with a deeply personal and emotional quality, while rendering each print a singular object and a unique interpretation of his experience.”

Brett Abbott, Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, TX
From the essay “Waiting to Awake,” as published in The City is a Novel (Damiani, 2015)

Titarenko’s Havana series was first exhibited at Nailya Alexander Gallery in 2007. In 2011, images from this series were included in the exhibition “Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now” at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA. Prints from this series can be found in the collections of the Getty Museum and the Harn Museum of Art in Florida.


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.

In recent 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

Blur at Photo Elysee museum in Lausanne, Switzerland (3 March - 25 May 2023).
Awe-Some: Time :: Materiality :: Meaning at the Harn Museum of Art (November 22, 2022 - May 14, 2023)

Alexey Titarenko: City of Shadows, retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria
Alexey Titarenko at Revela'T Festival 2022 in Vilassar de Dalt, Spain

Alexey Titarenko: The City of Shadows, retrospective exhibition, The State Russian Museum, and Exhibition Centre ROSPHOTO, St. Petersburg
Solo exhibition at Paris Photo, Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris, France

Alexey Titarenko: City of Shadows, retrospective exhibition, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, Russia
Collecting New York's Stories, the Museum of the City of New York, NY, USA
Alexey Titarenko, Festival Photo La Gacilly-Baden, Austria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern Lights, Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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