Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

MMPA Local Photography Exhibit

Krysteana Scribner | The Free Press

Posted on October 27, 2014 in Arts & Culture
By Krysteana Scribner

Krysteana Scribner | The Free Press

Most people would say that a picture paints a thousand words. However, the work of photographer Valeri Nistratov creates a thousand stories. Each photo he captures depicts unique individuals in unusual predicaments.

Located on the fifth floor of Glickman Library, USM’s latest exhibit from the Maine Museum of Photograph Arts showcases, “The Local Identity of Contemporary Eurasia.” This exhibit features the work of Nistratov, an internationally known photographer who specializes in documentary photography.

Nistratov is originally from Moscow, and is MMPA’s first artist-in-residence. He began his career in 1990 at the age of 17. From 1991 to 1993 he worked as a news photographer covering dramatic events for international media. In 1994 he began to do  more documentary photography and instantly fell in love with the projects he was pursuing.

Nistratov’s photography captures the surreal, raw emotion of the people he has met along his travels throughout Russia.

Nistratov wrote in his artists statement that his work is always an attempt to visually interpret and establish definitions by exploring a vast part of the Russian territory through the surreal and the absurd.

“Over several years I traveled around the territory of the former Golden Horde, Tsarist, Soviet and now post-Soviet Russia,” said Nistratov. “I became more and more convinced of the presence of ‘Asiatic’ features amongst Russian people and their way of life.”

Nistratov work is composed in such a way that creates thought provoking conversation amongst individuals of all ages. Every photograph tells a story and the exhibit as a whole has a dark sense of humour that reflects life in Russia after a large political movement called perestroika, which erupted in mid 1980.

By putting himself into the world of people living in big and small Russian cities, Nistratov explained to Little that he has seen the former imperial society inhabitants continue to re-establish themselves in a new socio-historical mentality.

“This is due to the influence of geographic factors, the prevalence in Russian consciousness of a feminine basis (passiveness) over a masculine one and the worship of force,” said Nistratov. “Which all form the contradictory nature and unpredictable outcome of the Russian psyche.”

Looking at some of his photography, it’s hard not to wonder what story each one is telling. In one photograph, a young boy sits sadly, holding a balloon with a skull and cross bones on it while his father stares blankly in his direction. Who are these two people and why are in such a strange predicament? Who is the man depicted in one of the other photos and why does he have a scar that stretches across his face?

Nistratov explained that documentary photography allows his viewers to create a story in their own mind while also being aware that the real story behind each photograph may never be known.

One photo depicts a middle aged women in a bathing suit, who is covering herself in spoons and other metal objects. It cannot be known that she is accomplishing this act of talent in below freezing weather conditions. Learning this information afterward adds a clever documentary style photography that allows Nistratov’s viewers to appreciate his work even more.

Although this added information helps the viewer understand the artwork on a higher level, it isn’t needed in order to appreciate the artwork at its most basic level.

“As a documentary photographer, an important part of my work consists of observing a phenomenon, or an event, as it is stretches across a temporal rhythm,” said Nistratov. “I believe that even one photograph can be made into a story or a short novel.”

Nistratov finds that some of his best work is taken at times where he didn’t plan to photograph. The process, he states, always involves intuition, reflexes and the search for a miracle. His patience and keen sense of timing have been the biggest reasons his photographs are special and full of deeper meaning.

Nistratov explains that this kind of visual art experience allows people to understand that photography is a system of languages that is not related to a particular author or school, but to spirits, distance, light, color and form.

“I hope the photographs I do lead the viewer to comprehend the details of Russian cityscapes and landscapes and the people living in them,” said Nistratov.

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