Every summer, La Gacilly Photo Festival takes over a small Breton town. For its 16th edition, the festival focuses on Eastern European and Russian photography. Here we provide a sneak peek at some of the works featured among the 26 exhibitions.
Alexander Rodchenko (1891–1956) and Russian Constructivism
A key figure in the Russian photography scene of the 1920s–40s, Alexander Rodchenko explored each and every aspect of the medium. He photographed social life, architecture, as well as major cultural and sporting events in post-October Revolution Russia. While he served Stalinist ideals, he nevertheless always maintained a personal view of people and things. Thanks to his keen eye for graphic design and framing, his images have acquired cult status, earning him the rank of a true avant-garde explorer. Among the showcased images we find a portrait of his mother, as well as another image of a woman carrying her child up a staircase. The latter image evokes the famous scene on the Odessa steps from Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. The prints featured in the Festival have been restored by the Photography Museum in Moscow.
Invasion of Prague, by Josef Koudelka
In the spring of 1968, the thirty-year old photographer Josef Koudelka captured scenes of social unrest that spread across the city of Prague in the Czechoslovak Republic, and a wave of resistance against the Soviet oppression. Tanks filed into the city while the protesters set fires in the streets and faced the invaders with flags and fists raised in the air. It wasn’t until 1984 that Koudelka identified himself as the author of these images, after years of anonymity to protect himself and his family against reprisals. The photos offer a panoramic insider’s view of the events. The series is being shown in France for the first time in its entirety at the La Gacilly Photo Festival.
The breakdown of the USSR by Justyna Mielnikiewicz
The Polish photographer, born in 1973, is fascinated by the breakdown of the Soviet Union and its impact on social and territorial transformations. She seeks to portray countries such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which are trying to rebuild their national identity after decades of political subjection. She is particularly interested in the gap between different generations and in the fact that the youngest citizens are going to confront a past that is complicated and full of contradictions, even while the country is undergoing a political and social renewal. The photographer successfully shows the meandering paths of memory and Slavic identity.
Alexey Titarenko’s bittersweet nostalgia
In a nutshell, Alexey Titarenko’s project, carried out between 1991 and 2000, was photographing ghostly passersby in his hometown of Saint Petersburg. Entitled City of Shadows, the series is an oneiric journey that brings to mind the narrators of Dostoevsky’s novels, lost in the fog of the Russian city, their minds equally adrift. The photographer creates the impression of a parade of specters wandering through frost-covered streets. He conjures up a dreamy sense of nostalgia characteristic of the Russian soul.
Elena Chernyshova’s big freeze
There are areas in Russia where temperatures dip down to –40ºC in winter. Norilsk is one such place, and it is where the photographer traveled in order to bear witness to extremely hard living conditions. She has portrayed the inhabitants of these bitterly cold zones, including the residents of Vyska and sailors breaking ice ahead of their ships between Murmansk and Cape Dezhnev. She depicts the struggle of humans against the elements, revealing an aspect of life in Russia that has helped forge the distinctive character of these northern peoples.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
La Gacilly Photo, À l’Est du nouveau
June 1 to September 30, 2019
La Gacilly, Morbihan (56)