Vlad and John
This series is called "Vlad and John.” It tells fictional stories of two people, representing two revolutions: the cultural revolution that happened in the western world with the arrival of rock music, and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Photographing people can be very limiting compared to other subject matters. Portrait photography’s value for the viewer is determined by the identity of the person depicted. Any specific subject brings a lot of baggage to the image. That baggage clutters the conceptual real estate of the photograph. For that reason I’ve always been inclined to photograph an archetype or an idea rather than a nuanced individual, and to obstruct or falsify the identity of the person depicted.
That thinking led me to working on projects involving custom made latex masks. There is something morbid and mystical in wearing a mask. In this series the masks, breathing paganism and death, are contrasted with the look of commercial photography, a genre that is also known to objectify people.
At the click of the shutter the masks borrow someone else’s life, and reveal new and often unexpected meanings. The faces of the masks represent a brand rather than an individual. In this project those brands are Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon.
When I was growing up in Russia there was a lot of Lenin around. So much that he ceased to be perceived as a person or even as the leader of the Revolution. He was just the given; a part of the landscape; an ornamental leitmotif.
While the image of Lenin was dominating the exterior of my childhood, my personal world was painted in slightly different colors. Needless to say I was a John Lennon fan. As I grew up during Perestroika, western commodities seeped into our daily life quite rapidly. My grandmother didn’t know a lot of names for things that I owned. Everything that was music related, such as my cassette tapes and walkman, she called “the beatleses”. Thus, for her, as in a way for me too, everything foreign and incomprehensible has merged into this one image.
These two brands of Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon coexisted in my head and were projected onto my reality. These images left imprints on how I see things today. The people who appear before my lens are therefore perceived through this prism.