18 January 2008
The job of photography is both easy and difficult. Easy because the camera does all the work. Difficult because how do you take the visible continuum of what there is before you and structure it for meaning and for effect. The Constructivists, for example, made radical compositions, but they are not just remembered for their graphic design, much as current Russian advertising seeks to parrot the form. Rather, there was a revolutionary idealism to their work and the form reflected this utopian spirit.
Recently, I was offered a ride but the driver to a wealthy Russian and, as we talked, he complained that his salary did not allow him entry into the middle class and alleged that Russia’s parliamentary elections, which had just passed, had been predetermined. I asked him if he had voted and he said no. I asked how he would seek to better his lot. “The better is the enemy of the good,” he answered. Kapuschinsky, the Polish writer, hit on another popular expression Russians use when asked how they are doing: “We live; we breathe.” As though that were enough, or too much.
What then, to make of those lost early-twentieth century fantasies? This is what set me on this photographic mission. Though I do not wish to say it, my work grapples with nostalgia. Not for the era of superficial well-being under Brezhnev when we had our vacations to the Baltics and occasional access to French cosmetics, and cheap tickets to the ballet. But for the dream of a just society, when it was still possible to imagine it even through all the contradictions.
The Russian person tends toward modesty in the face of greater forces. Another common expression is: “We make plans; God makes decisions.” These relationships between the great forces -- leadership, the gifts and privations of the divine, the stain of history, the chances for consolation -- are visible to the observant eye, and I wish to make them visible in my photographs.
Text and pictures by ©Yola Mokhava
The work of Yola is a brilliant example of what documentary photography of today can accomplish. In the pictures presented here, she gives us a memorable ride through Russia in the beginning of the 21st century. The pictures are from Moscow, Murmansk and Kirovsk on the Kola penisula, Ekaterinburg and Saint Petersburg. They were taken between 2003 and 2007. Yola has been kind enough to send a text as well. Along with the pictures you find excerpts from this text (an interview made by Peter Savodnik).
Yola gave me free hands to arrange pictures and text for the blog. It´s not an easy task with such a rich material. I decided to chose the “not-obvious” strategy for this, meaning that there is no obvious relation between the pictures and the text below them. Or maybe there is…? It´s up to you dear reader of the F Blog.
Many thanks to you Yola for showing us your marvellous and important work. Photography matters!/Ulf
For more by Yola: www.sashawolf.com and www.yolamonakhov.com