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Work seen at Photolucida

Pasab ©Dima Gavrysh


Dima Gavrysh just celebrated the birth of his first child, a wonderful milestone after years of focusing his lens on the difficult subject matter of war.  He has approached this subject in a variety of mediums and produced a number of compelling series in collaboration with charitable organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.  Dima has also been embedded with the US Army in Afghanistan numerous times creating projects such as Soldiers of Zerok and  Inshallah (which went on to receive Top 50 honors in Critical Mass , 2010).  The body of work that he brought to Photolucida was all captured in stunning black and white using a mobile phone.  Dima has a remarkable ability to capture the tension and charged experience of war with an artist's eye. 

Dima received his
MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in June 2012.
He obtained his first degree in Kiev, Ukraine in 2000 as a Director of
Photography in Motion Picture Imaging. For the past 12
years Dima has worked as a documentary photographer with major publications and
news agencies such as New York Times, Associated Press, and Bloomberg News. Dima was been the recipient of numerous awards and recently has a solo exhibition of this work at the Pictura Gallery. He is currently working on publishing his first book.


Inshallah
Inshallah (God willing in Arabic) is a project that explores the Soviet and American occupations of Afghanistan, and draws on my childhood fantasies that romanticize the military and intertwine with my past and present personal conflicts.

Zerok #1©Dima Gavrysh


As a Ukrainian who was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, this is the
second time that I live in a country that is fighting a war in Afghanistan.

Ambush ©Dima Gavrysh


I create a dark fairytale filled with my fears and dreams, based on my fascination with the army’s strength and order, set on the front lines of what has become America’s longest running war in history. Mesmerized by the complexity of the Afghan chaos, I strive to better comprehend my personal relationship to these wars: two empires, two mentalities, same battlefield, twelve years apart.

 Finch ©Dima Gavrysh

IED ©Dima Gavrysh

 Suicide Bomber ©Dima Gavrysh

Khost #3 ©Dima Gavrysh

 Larry ©Dima Gavrysh

EOD ©Dima Gavrysh

Tangi #2 ©Dima Gavrysh

Kandahar #2 ©Dima Gavrysh

 Paktika #2©Dima Gavrysh

 Brothers ©Dima Gavrysh

August 12th ©Dima Gavrysh

 Paktia #1 @©Dima Gavrysh

Kandahar #1 ©Dima Gavrysh

Zerok#2 ©Dima Gavrysh

Khost #2 ©Dima Gavrysh

Air Assault #2 ©Dima Gavrysh

Concussion Dust ©Dima Gavrysh

BAF ©Dima Gavrysh

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In academic and literary criticism, the verb “to interrogate” is often a neutral term, stripped of its more violent, forceful resonance. But in Donald Weber’s new book, Interrogations, itself an “interrogation” of the way state power plays out across stretches of Eastern Europe, the Canadian photographer seeks to show the brutality and helplessness that undergirds almost all societies.

The images above are scenes from interrogation rooms, the product of seven years of exploring Russia and the Ukraine and befriending and winning the trust of ordinary police officers. They are stark and bleak. Detained suspects sit slumped in empty rooms, their faces stretched in terror, shame and resignation. A teenager under suspicion of shoplifting bursts into tears; when his interrogation goes wrong, a supposed car thief finds himself pinioned to the table, his hands limply warding against a gun pointed down on his skull.

Weber says the scenes are not out of the ordinary. The interrogations are conducted by officers who are “respected in their departments,” he says. “They rose through the ranks and did the job required. What I think is so powerful is that this is not a rogue set of cops. This is standard practice, it is what it is. It’s the utter terror of a wayward bureaucracy.”

On one level, that’s an indictment of the ethical vagaries of policing in post-Soviet countries. But on another, Weber is illustrating—dramatically, to be sure—how state power essentially functions the world over. French philosopher Louis Althusser famously placed the moment we recognize our subservience to the authority of a state in a street scene where one is confronted by a police officer. The officer, writes Althusser, shouts: “‘Hey, you there!’… Assuming that the theoretical scene I have imagined takes place in the street, the hailed individual will turn round. By this mere one-hundred-and-eighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject.”

That subjection—that subjugation—is all too apparent in the suspects Weber photographs. Even in full-fledged, mature democracies, one still feels a kind of nakedness when in the crosshairs of the law, a vulnerability that can only be mitigated after the fact by norms of due process and habeas corpus. Says Weber: “This is work not about Ukraine or Russia or even the former Soviet Union, but instead a way to see the modern State as a primitive and sacrificial rite.”

That’s a particularly dark interpretation of how power gets wielded and realized, but it’s echoed in public opinion polls throughout the post-Soviet world. Twenty years since the fall of Communism, a significant majority of people in Ukraine and Russia have lost faith in both the promise of free-market capitalism as well as multiparty democracy. This disillusionment with politics has much to do with disgust at what some say are kleptocratic, domineering elites in both countries. But it also indicates a deeper gloominess: the sense perhaps that, whatever the dominant ideology of the day, there’s always the prospect of the interrogation room, and the grim, subterranean power that it holds over of us.

Interrogations was published this month by Schilt Publishing. Weber’s series recently won first place at the World Press Photo awards in the Portraits—Stories category.

Ishaan Tharoor writes for TIME and is editor of Global Spin. You can find him on Twitter at ishaantharoor

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Misha Friedman quit his job at Doctors Without Borders to freelance as a photographer. His images of tuberculosis in Russia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine are haunting. But Mr. Friedman isn't sure how much good they have done.

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Though somewhat of a complex craft, the art of photographic printing isn’t exactly rocket science—that is, until an artist like Boris Savelev approaches the process, and decides to push it further.

Savelev, who spent his working life in the former Soviet Union as a rocket engineer, brings the same methodical eye to his photography and printing process. He has experimented with color photography since the 1980s, but those early attempts left Savelev unsatisfied with the resulting colors. That dissatisfaction has become a theme for his artistic trajectory; since then he has tried various printing techniques for his photographs. Color Constructions, a new exhibition of his work, represents the apex of his experimentation in printmaking.

“I am writing my biography with them,” Savelev says of his images and the reasoning behind the one-of-a-kind process he prepares himself. “With each new image prepared for printing, my impressions are sharpened and the final print takes on a bright expression, a personal character.”

Savelev got his first major photographic opportunity in 1986. At the start of perestroika in the Soviet Union, Thomas Neurath of London’s Thames and Hudson book publishers visited Moscow in search of “unofficial” artists, and selected Savelev’s work. A selection of those images would eventually be published in 1988 as The Secret City, the artist’s first monograph. Though a success that would gain him international attention, the color quality of the images still left Savelev wanting more from his prints.

The materials used in the process for Color Constructions are surprisingly industrial; for this particular series, the images appear printed on sheets of aluminum, which Savelev prefers for its archival quality and says ensures the “colorful saturation of the hues” in each image. But the process, which does give the appearance of a broader tonal range of color, requires unique preparation for each image. Each panel is coated in gesso, an artistic primer usually used for painting, in order to receive the pigment from each photograph, and is waxed after the image has been printed. Because of the large size and uncommon materials, the image is made with a multi-layer, flatbed printer, custom-made in conjunction with Factum Arte, a Madrid-based studio. According to Factum Arte’s Adam Lowe, in designing the process the studio became filled with 3D scanners and disassembled digital printers.

Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Savelev's Color Constructions on display in London.

The journey, physical as well as artistic, was a necessary one: “In Moscow no one knows or imagines what a multi-layered print on aluminum is,” Savelev says. “The culture of printing is lost, the tradition of master printers is forgotten, the studios are closed.”

The result is anything but synthetic. Many of Savelev’s images are from his hometown of Czernowitz, where he lived until 1966 when he moved to Moscow. A photograph of a vacant barber shop, dramatically cast in shadows, is an homage to a photographer friend of Savelev’s. The artist, also from Czernowitz, snapped a frame of the same barber shop in black and white that inspired Savelev with its beauty, and he dedicates his own uniquely moody color image to his late friend’s memory. The sum of Color Constructions is a nostalgic view of a Russia no longer in existence; the intent of the printing process is not as a technical exercise, but rather as a means to express the quiet, lonely scenes of former Soviet cities as faithfully as possible. The soft, dreamy colors that Savelev’s process renders are true to his film and his eye, which appear timeless—indeed, the series remains cohesive while including images shot in the past year as well as in the mid 1980s—and show the Russian landscape in an extraordinarily contemplative manner.

Savelev’s images belie the story of an artist seeking to overcome the gap between the image’s original emotive quality, and its representation on the printed surface. Through a process he’s honed slowly since beginning his career in photography decades ago, the complete control over the images is worth the effort, both for the viewer and the artist.

“I do not regret the time spent in search of new technology, or studying early methods and solutions, opening up for myself something personal,” Savelev says. “For me, the final goal is the print.”

Color Constructions is on display at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London through Jan. 21.

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The thread that links much of the Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen’s work is her portrayal of the seemingly small, undramatic moments of everyday life.

It might be a photograph of friends sitting and sharing a drink or a deceptively simple photograph of a family snapshot sitting on a bureau, but the weight of much of her imagery lays in the perception of a connection her subjects. Van Manen’s professional beginnings were in fashion but after a photographer friend introduced her to the photographs of Robert Frank and other artists, she pursued a more personal direction with her work. “Both Robert Frank and Nan Goldin have inspired me, especially the directness and closeness to the subject they have. I have to like the people I photograph,” she has said. The seemingly casual language of her photographs stems from her use of automatic, non-professional cameras. “Traveling with expensive Leicas or Nikons in Russia at that time was asking for trouble,” she says. “They considered my cameras as toys… and they did not feel threatened by them, they considered me as a tourist or friend, who liked to take pictures.” What might be seen at first to be “flaws” to the images—a light leak bleeding in from an edge, imperfect focusing or flash burn from the on-camera flash—give way to the perception of Manen’s impulses to grab at what she sees before her, physically hold it, or more accurately as felt in the pictures, to embrace it.

For her first book, A Hundred Summers A Hundred Winters, published in 1994, van Manen traveled all over the former Soviet Union for more than three years photographing daily life. “I did not focus on poverty,” she says. “But the average living conditions are, of course, poorer than in the West. On the other hand I did not try to show happiness and lightheartedness where it does not exist.” Looking past the living conditions, one notices much of what is happening in van Manen’s images takes place in the sitting rooms, bedrooms or over kitchen tables where people gather to talk or get to know one another. The photos exude warmth, without judgment and with a keen eye for the unexpectedly beautiful. In one photograph from Kazakhstan, a perfectly stacked pyramid of silver metal bowls left to dry on a kitchen counter mimic the tiles on the wall behind. In another from Moldavia, golden brown loaves of bread line sets of white shelves while a man in uniform and Kalashnikov rifle slung over his shoulder seems to stand guard.

Van Manen’s 2006 book Give Me Your Image focused her attention on family photographs she discovered in homes she visited while traveling in Europe. She photographed them where they were found or at times would place them among other objects creating impromptu still-lifes. “It was exciting to walk through the homes with a portrait, looking for the perfect place to put it,” she said. “I tried not to think and just follow my intuition. This sometimes gave surprising results, like the lady in Rome, who started crying when I put the image of her dead son in a corner, in front of a little cabinet that he always had treasured and that was all she still had of him.”

Bertien van Manen’s latest book, Let’s Sit Down Before We Go, published by Mack Books, is a collaboration of sorts. Titled after the habit of having Russians sit for a moment before a long journey to think about where they will be going and why, van Manen’s book came into being after a lengthy pause of its own. After revisiting some of the contact sheets from her work from the former Soviet Union shot between 1991 and 2009, van Manen sent some scans of a new edit of images to the British photographer Stephen Gill for his opinion. Gill in turn asked to see all of the raw material represented on the 500+ contact sheets and proceeded to make not only a selection of pictures but sequence them as well. Van Manen trusted his instincts. “I decided to stay with his selection and sequence, happy with the dynamic yet subtle repetition and rhythm of images and the combination of colors,” he says. “They are in complete accordance with my idea about the content of the album.”

Gill’s edit favors many images that were left on the contact sheets due to unsharpness or overexposure and in preparing the images for the book they were not corrected, in fact much the opposite. “Stephen had encouraged us to push to extreme results,” van Bertien says. “I was there for some days in the Lake District, with Rob Sara in his darkroom, while he was printing these images. For instance, working on the second print in the book, we held back the face of the baby even more.” The results leave the baby almost without detail – a glowing mass upended and swinging from a man’s arms.

When van Manen speaks of her books, she uses the word “album” frequently. An album, a family album in particular, makes little claim for aspiring to great art. Its purpose seems to be our desire to access memory, history, personal feelings (both good and bad) and perhaps even serve as proof of our existences. There is a shorthand of language in the gestures, faces that can be universal even if we do not know who is in the picture. Her work seems familiar because it is art that slyly poses as photographs that could sit alongside our own memories in such an album. It is such that we can feel the gift of the company Bertien van Manen keeps.

Let’s Sit Down Before We Go was recently published by Mack Books.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions.

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