Tag Archive: ukraine
Kuba Rubaj recently sent us his project “Rainbow”, a beautiful look into a community that I haven’t been introduced to before. We want to share the work with you and a few questions we had for Rubaj.
Rainbow Gathering is like alternative to modern world. Each year Rainbow Family attracts hundreds of thousands of people to spend time in wilderness.
Gatherings each year take place at over 100 locations all over the world, away from civilization, shops, sanitation, electricity, telephones, Internet, alcohol, drugs, money.
Participants feel deep connection with nature. They wish to live in peace and harmony. Some of them consider Rainbow as a new form of society. Spiritually, there is a very strong influence from native Shamanism. There is no membership, leaders, official spokespersons or any formal structure, everyone is equal. They live like a tribe.
First, how did you come across this group and movement?
It’s hard to say, probably by my friend who used to visit rainbows at the beginning of 2000. But I had many friends who travelled. So I’ve heard about it from time to time. I visited my first gathering in Czech Republic in 2007, actually by mistake. It was small thirty-people gathering with a very calm family atmosphere.
Are you part of Rainbow?
I don’t know if we can talk about a clearly defined “belonging to this movement” in general. If You are on the Rainbow gathering You are a part of it.
But in simple terms – I identify with many ideas from Rainbow. But simultaneously I prefer to go my own way in life all the time learn and just have an opened mind.
What is your background, how did you come to photography? Is there something in your background that draws you to this community?
The world has interested me as long as I remember. When I was twelve, I started to travel on bicycle along Eastern Europe. At the beginning with my father and later alone. When I rode a bike through all these countries, many images moved in front of me. I think it has a big influence on my perception and attitude. And later camera just appeared..
Is there any message from the community that you hope to see reflected in modern society? Is this at all a goal of the project, of sharing pictures of Rainbow?
I think Rainbow is in itself a message. People all over the world try to find different way of life, and change their relations. Sometimes it is more, sometimes less authentic, but that does not change the fact that it is. More and more people are tired of modern life.
As for my photographs – they are very simple. Do not have a clear meaning or opinion. I do not want my photographs to impose a judgement.
I wish that every viewer understands it their way. And had his own thoughts / ideas / requests. They can focus on aesthetics / visual side, or they can go on in the thoughts. It is up to them.
I would like it to be universal.
How do the people react to your work, your way of telling their story?
I guess that they like idea of simplicity. Taking photos is not unwelcome on the rainbow, but when I talk about my work and idea of traveling they usually cooperate. I always send them these photographs later.
You mentioned to me that you are planning this to be a part of a pair of books, the second strongly connected with the idea of “the road”. How are they interconnected?
How do you conceive of each project in relation to the other?
On the work of a rainbow as I thought from the beginning about the book, a book about the road came after some time. Book about rainbow will be simple, calm, harmonious; and the book about the road will be chaotic, personal, subjective, unstable – like road is. I wish that these two books will complement each other.
What work (photography, art, music, writers, etc.) are you looking at that excites you, and that our readers might not have come across?
I think the following line of thought about the modern world, I can say for sure that was a huge inspiration for works of Godfrey Reggio, his Quatsi trilogy. I looked at this when I was 13 years old and it had a big impact on me.
Donald Weber has a new book of his work in Ukraine and Russia, to be released in Fall 2011 by Schilt Publishing. We asked him to give us a preview of his pictures and book dummies alongside his ideas on publishing and developing projects. As part of the funding for the project Weber is currently selling collector’s editions and a special advanced version of the book via the Interrogations Book website. Weber is a VII Network photographer from Toronto and often teaches workshops, and is hosting on July 21st and 22nd 2011 a workshop on grant writing in Berlin. Dvafoto previously interviewed Weber in December 2008 when he was living in Kiev and in the midst of the photography and travels that would become this book.
Could you introduce the work featured in your new book Interrogations
Following an exploratory trip to Chernobyl in 2005, I soon returned to the abandoned site of the nuclear disaster and spent the next seven years in Russia and Ukraine photographing the ruins of the unstoppable storm we call history. Traveling and living with ordinary people who had survived much, had survived everything, this project begins to see the modern State as a primitive and bloody sacrificial rite of unnamed Power.
Interrogations is the result of my personal quest to uncover the hidden meaning of the bloody 20th Century. In dialogue with friend and writer Larry Frolick – whose own ancestors had been decimated in the final months of WW II – I insistently and provocatively address questions both to the living survivors and to the ghosts of the State’s innumerable victims, resurrecting their final hours by taking their point of view, and performing a kind of incantatory meditation over their private encounters with Power.
The policemen, working girls, thugs, dissidents and hustlers who inhabit these pages are all orphans of a secret History; the outlines of our collective fate takes shape in this epic work, expanding our awareness of what it means to be an actor in today’s dark opera.
How did the idea for a book of this work come about? How did it change over time?
Stalin famously said, “I am not concerned with how the court of History will judge our current deeds.” I found this a fascinatingly provocative statement, and one that goes right to the heart of who I am as a photographer. I began seeing my role as that of the court of History, another somebody who could examine the deeds of History and present it to an audience. I am much more concerned with making pictures about something rather than of something. As I delved deeper and deeper into my work, I became inspired by the writers such as Mikhail Bulgakov, Varlam Shalamov and Vasily Grossman, all artists who reveal the incantatory slogans of History and their dark meanings.
So, I started to investigate and examine not just the subject matter I was interested in, but the methods of how best to present that work. I felt these writers to be an inspiration and thus the ideas of the book really began to reveal themselves. I see the role of a photographer not just as a creator of visual narrative, but also a communicator of ideas and people and places and subjects that can be explored much like a novelist explores certain themes. With this in mind, a book was the only obvious way forward.
I cannot say I set out to photograph what I photographed, in fact my original ideas were quite different then what you see in the book. I am an instinctual photographer, I rarely travel with a plan in mind, I prefer moving through a space not just intellectually but through my stomach and my heart. It’s only when I start seeing things, talking to people, getting involved and gaining a little knowledge about the place do the real ideas begin. It’s the same in editing, I lay a bunch of small prints on the floor and I just sit surrounded by them on the floor, the pictures reveal themselves and the places they want to be.
I had a great discussion with Teun van der Heijden, the designer of the book, back in January when we were starting the layout. He wanted the book to be the entire series of Interrogations, as did Maarten Schilt and a few others. I think my ego was a little hurt – I thought, I have spent 6 years in Siberia and Ukraine, wandering in some pretty dark places, and suddenly all this work will never be seen? But then I had a realization that because I spent these six years, these years of frustration and toil and a lot of personal sacrifice, that I could go and make this Interrogations series, that this experience allowed me to get to where I really needed to be. In the end, it’s not totally Interrogations literally, but also a very beautiful “prologue” of the spaces and people that inhabit the interrogation room, the conditions that could foster this type of treatment. I couldn’t be prouder of the direction it has taken.
The title refers, of course, not only to the confrontation of a vast uniformed apparatus and its trembling subjects as a historical set-piece, if not a ritual public ceremony, but, more cogently, to the role of the photographer in the 21st Century as an eye-witness and social critic. The answer, of course, lies in the work itself. The work either satisfies our instinct for truth, or it doesn’t. Fieldwork is the crucible of ambition.
How did you go about getting in to the process of having it published? How did you find a designer and publisher to work with?
I made an initial list (I am an inveterate list maker) of all the publishers I wished to work with. I examined their back lists and looked for books that matched not just the conceptual values of my work, but also the physical values of a book that I admire. From there, I sort of whittled the list down to about seven publishers that I felt would make a good partner. I initially trained as an architect and so I was used to collaboration; in fact one of the things I loathe most about a lot of photography books, is essentially they just become monographs of the photographers greatest images. A book should have plot and character, foreshadowing, knowledge, conflict and redemption, all the ingredients that make up a good story, but also be socially engaged, say something. I always asked myself “What do you want to say?”
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The NYTimes Lens blog just posted a piece including the words and images of Velibor Božović, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in Sarajevo. In the interview Božović said some things that have really echoed with some earlier thoughts of mine: is it possible for a photographer to photograph as someone else? In other words, to photograph in character? Actors can assume new personalities and do things (on set a least) that they would never say or do in their personal life. Does this, can this, should this apply to photography?
“[Hemon and I] spent hours talking about what these guys would do and about Rora — what would he really photograph,” Mr. Božović said. Through their conversations, Mr. Božović would discover that Rora possessed aesthetic tastes and instincts that drastically differed from his own.
This did not always sit well with him. One photograph he took still leaves him feeling uneasy. At a sidewalk café in Lviv, Ukraine, he sneaked a shot of a woman’s bare legs from underneath a coffee table.
“I simply would never do that,” he said. “But Rora would do that kind of thing.”
This is a proper book club post because Božović’s comments are referring to the book that he made with his friend, the writer Aleksandar Hemon called The Lazarus Project. In it there are two characters traveling through Eastern Europe (Bosnia, Moldova, Ukraine) in search of certain historical events and this is exactly what the author and his photographer friend, Božović and Hemon, did in real life. This curious parallelism is found often in Hemon’s books, which I count amongst my favorites of recent years, especially his first: The Question of Bruno. This mixing of first person narrative, of fiction and real experience, even to the point of having a character named Hemun that fits biographical features of the real Hemon, work incredibly well at playing the tensile strings of fragile immigrant identities. But what about doing this with photographs and blurring the line of who is the photographer? Does the biography of a photographer matter? Does it matter if they exist at all in a non-fiction world?
Interesting ideas for me.
Be sure to look at Božović’s work, especially the whole Lazarus Project set on his website and the Stone Sleepers project which we’ve previously written about on dva. Word is that he is traveling to Russia at the moment, I hope for some nice new secret project. Can’t wait to see it when he’s back.
With the next interview in our ongoing series we’re talking to photographer Donald Weber who is based in Eastern Europe and is with the VII Network. You should quickly see why he and I have connected, given our overlapping interests with a certain part of the world. Many of the questions I asked, frankly, were bent to my own personal interest in what it means to move halfway around the world to photograph stories you’re personally passionate about. I’m sure some of you can relate. But more importantly to most of you, he is producing interesting and important work much on his own terms and is rising his profile, and has had an interesting life so far. And has interesting things to say about what he is doing.
Amongst many accomplishments Weber has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lange-Taylor Prize and a World Press Photo award. He was a 2006 winner of the Photolucida Critical Mass review which just published his book Bastard Eden, Our Chernobyl (which I previously mentioned here). Before becoming a photographer, he worked as an architect with the world-renowned Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. For his full biography have a look at the about page on his website.
What is your background, in interests and academics? Where do you come from?
Well, Canadian, from Toronto, downtown, which may have influenced my outlook. Taking the subway at 12 years old to school everyday definitely gives an impression on a youngster, glad I was able to see what I did. Anyway, my academic background is not so academic, I studied at an alternative high school that offered an intensive arts education, from the age of 16 until graduation in grade 13, I studied art all day everyday. We had four hours of life drawing two days a week – that would be nudes, thus lots of people were jealous of us, plus an 8 hour day of art history and then we would major and minor in two artistic practices. I wanted to be artist, not really sure what that was or how I would do it, but initially that was my goal. I then went on to study at art college, the Ontario College of Art & Design, where I majored in – I forget the complex phrasing of the subject, something like Art and the Environment. Basically, making massive intrusions into the public landscape. Great! But I totally wasted my time, as far as I’m concerned, education is wasted on the young! It was a conflict in my youth of what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it. I loved the idea of creating something, anything, I didn’t care how as long as I could. Then I had this interest in photography, and in particular photojournalism, which went against all the grains of an artistic education that I was brought up on.
So it was an interesting education, for almost 10 years I was schooled in very sophisticated forms of visual education that certainly influences me to this day. The practicalities may have changed, but the essence of being visual are always the same. Line, shape, form, colour, mood, tone, conceptual processes, etc., are all linked at the very core, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have had an education that grounded these roots into my young head.
Tell me about your time with architecture.
Well architecture came about rather haphazardly. in order to understand my time within that field, you have to understand first how I ended up there; it’s a rather convoluted process but one that is inherent as to my position today.
Back to my high schooling. As I stated before, I had an interest in both art and photojournalism. My passion, in my final year, was won out with photojournalism. It was in November of that year before graduation where in Canada we make our applications to post secondary institutions. I wanted to apply to two – Rochester Institute of Technology for PJ, and a smaller college just outside of Toronto for a basic three year photography course. I asked my photography (and I quote verbatim the following conversation):
Me: Robert, which school do you think I should apply to? RIT or Sheridan?
Robert (the teacher): What? Why would you apply to either? You suck as a photographer!
Thus, I literally brought my cameras home and put them in a drawer, not to be touched for about 10 years. It was then I decided to find a different path. I replaced photography with ceramics; my mother was not so pleased. Anyway, while studying at OCAD, I developed an interest in architecture, planning and landscape design and was captured by the writings and designs of the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. So, I set my sights on working for him. When I graduated in 1996, I headed overseas to Rotterdam where his practice was based, and promptly got a job, precisely because I was not a trained architect. I worked there for about three years. It was a great experience, but certainly soul crushing. I found architecture to be a rather drab profession and nearly impossible to do anything of interest, save for the exception of Rem Koolhaas and a few others. But I learned about ideas, how to think in a conceptual manner and to find ways to bring those ideas into fruition. It also taught me on more practical levels things about budgeting and planning and just being professional; things I think we take for granted that all go into the realities of being a working photographer.
Anyway, it was not a highlight of my life but I think a necessary step.
What brought you to photography? Was there a specific event that made you say “I am going to be a photographer”?
Yes, very specific event! My whole life has these cascading elements that when all put together certainly illuminate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I was born in 1973, thus when the events of the late 80′s and early 90′s came around, I was at the ripe age to start taking notice. For me, these were the most historical and important times of my generation. The collapse of communism, the events in Tiananmen Square, the first Iraq War. These were all events that were shaped and played out in magazines and television. I was a teenager and just discovering more than my backyard, it was an awakening physically, mentally, socially, everything, for me. I remember clearly watching hundreds of thousands of Eastern European refugees fleeing their countries for elsewhere, the Wall collapsing, the Ceaucescu’s being executed, Boris Yeltsin on top of a tank. All these events were seared into my mind, and those events shaped what I wanted to do with my life. I had always been aware of news images, but never before did I connect that somebody actually went out there and made those pictures until I was older. It was a massive lightbulb that went off and I wanted to be a part of it.
Anyway, that was event number one. The second event was my diversion to architecture for awhile; I listened to closely what my high school teacher had to say; never again! Anyway, it was while I was living in Europe that I remembered what photography was all about. I wanted to remember living in Europe, so I bought a camera – it was great! I couldn’t put it down, all I did was take photos. Crappy, but they were photos. It was then that I said okay – I’m going to be a photographer – but how was a much more difficult question. It wasn’t until March of 2000, a few days before I was to leave on a year long trip to ride my motorcycle across Africa (something I had previously done in 1998) where the jump was finally made. I had just quit my job as an architect, not really knowing what to do. I was taking the bike out for one last tune up spin when I got hit by a car. I just remember sliding across the hood of some old Chevy, sliding on my back seeing my crumpled bike and thinking, okay, now’s the time to be a photographer. So I never did the bike trip to Africa; I “became” a photographer. That summer I got an internship at the Toronto Sun, a tabloid.
What were your early interests as a photographer? Influences?
I don’t really know, for me it was such a long battle to finally start taking pictures that influences and interests were a secondary thought! But, as a teenager, photojournalism was a very powerful force in me. I remember Kenneth Jarecke’s burned Iraqi soldier from the first Iraq War, Chris Morris’ Panama photos, Don McCullin – it was important because what they were photographing was important – and that was important to me! So I’d say my interests were in the realm that photography could act as a document; the total opposite of my art education. to me art had become superfluous, something dilettantes dabbled in; it had lost it’s meaning. Photography was the opposite. As I grew, my more literal influences was the photographer Raymond Depardon, still is. To me he has managed to encapsulate perfectly what a photographer is and should be. Bridge influences and ideas from all facets and present them in his own manner. That is something I strive to do, to take what I see but also to take what I feel and make my own story of it.
My interests are always morphing; there was a time when I thought Chris Morris could do no wrong (still do). But my art training definitely influenced me in the way I see; not what I see, but how I interpret that. I used to really enjoy the old masters and specifically religious paintings of the 15 – 17 centuries. So much blood, red, white, gold, colour, pain; totally terrified me.
Read on »
Donald Weber, photographer with VII Network and next-in-line DVA interviewee, has just had his first book published: Bastard Eden, Our Chernobyl.
The book has come about after his selection in the Photolucida Critical Mass Prize 2006, which grants its winners the publication of a project. The pictures in this book come from over three years of work in the areas surrounding the Chernobyl disaster, and many can be found on his website. I adore the work (all of it, frankly) and covet a copy of the book… Congrats to Don. Show your love and purchase a copy!