The breath of photography is more important for me than its structure- Victor An

On June 16 opened an exhibition of photo-collections of Victor An in Bonum Factum Gallery in Tashkent with the support of the Swiss Cooperation Office of the Embassy of Switzerland in Uzbekistan in Tashkent..  Black-n-White portraits, observing bystanders in combination with fluttering melody of Sukhrob Nazimov, video-arts of Abror Sultanov imposing a melancholy mood and art-installation of Jakhongir Bobokulov poured out into the story of modern man's life, his move into adulthood and aging in the digital era.

In an interview with Art Review, Victor An revealed the importance of this exhibition to him, considered Uzbekistan's modern photography problem and the role of broad public backing.

Professional activities.

We were on the periphery in the 1980s. To get the information about photography was something near to impossible.  The newspapers and magazines of Soviet Photography were the only means of information sourcing.

During my first years of working as a reporter, I had a constant urge to engage in art. Had a dream to approach to the true essence of photography. So I joined the "Panorama" club, where the community of photographers was involved in free photography. And my thirst for art-photography was about to take a drop.

Mainly I was indifferent to photojournalism as I considered reporting to be an ordinary daily life activity. But now, after more than 40 years, values have changed colossally. As for me, documentary photography has become more valuable than art photography.  This is what we call metamorphosis.

The whole time I was concerned with documentary and in parallel with photography basis. I can't say that I move away from production or draw near documentary, just my priorities started to change.

Documentary and art photography.

We do not pay attention to documentary photography because right now it accompanies us. But after 10-20 years pass, things change.

The stage the audience and art expert at, always gives a response to the art- photography.  Art-photography is connected with great finding, invention. It conveys the artist's attitude and message to the real world. He has only this message to create on.  I have been making my little discoveries since 1978, from the beginning of professional photography career. It's my hobby.

Art photography has loads of nuances, which are adhered in the world. It forgives no faking. To capture old house from the inside, possible to bring a bug of dust. But the photograph will have to wait the settling of dust for half of the year. These are the unspoken rules.

I've been collecting archives from family albums for years. Wherever my business trips take me away, I always ask: "Can I have a look at your family album?". Those albums disclose me interesting plots of last century. These photos are a hundred years old. Everything has perished, but this document. Some of the scenes that album contains, I recapture and surely record the information, as the most valuable thing in these images is information.

Documentary photographers also need the ability to be surprised by what is happening around. Photography is entertainment.  If I am indifferent, I can't be chilled out.

Painting differs from photography with the process which starts from heart, head, thought, hand and only then with brush and canvas. Such is the sequence of idea transmitting. Photography is a mechanical fruit. The lens captures the moment which is gone after blink. Therefore the photography is generally documentary, which keeps moments that can not be repeated.

The magic of analog photography and the trends of the modern world.

As a professional photographer, I also switched from analog photography to digital technology. It was the demand of my profession. An image with digital photography is built through formula, and with analog through silver. Silver is a noble metal, due to which analog photography records not only the moment but even the breath. Digital, unfortunately, is not capable of doing that. Formula records all but a breath.

When I retired, around 2010, I decided to return to analog photography. As for me, the breath of photography is a way important than its structure. Then I began shooting on a formant camera.

People now tend to invent something new faster than it was 50 years ago. People's thinking started to change. In the global sense, with the emersion of big competition, the photography took a high pace forward. The same thing can be said about art. The new design of art emerged: installation. Exhibitions are over? Take it and dismantle. I can relate it with one fact. We started absorbing the information way faster.

Any kind of free art is connected with how much you are ahead of time. I dare to think, that in Pushkin's time there were certainly poets, much more popular than he was. But so much time has gone, so many things have happened, and Pushkin remained. They perished because Pushkin was ahead the time with his poetry.

The same story with photography. But a documentary all the way around. The more time goes, the more valuable it becomes.

"Biometric passports" and financing exhibitions.

About 8 years ago I've been taken in the police station. It was an ordinary case for our profession in those years. This kind of problem happened all the time. I was arrested at night. Around midnight, one of the investigators called someone. And literally, in 10 minutes from his fax the tape jumped out. He showed it to me. I didn't know as much about myself as it said in the tape. For me it was a shock.

I guess this case preceded the idea of "biometric passports", although I didn't even have such thoughts that time. The project itself occurred to me last year.

Biometric passport is not a documentary photo. It's pure modern art. In modern vocabulary we have such a fashionable word "conceptuality". It has nothing to do with documentary. It is possible now to get full information about us just with one call, credit goes to modern technology. This project is relevant now, but I can not say that it is ahead of time.

Here conscious portraits are in a very simplified form. Although I do not consider myself a portraitist. I know that the portrait genre was in the field of interest before me and will be after me. And will continue doing exhibitions.

In Tashkent, exhibitions of portraits happen periodically. So I decided to do it differently. I needed a lightbulb idea.

When I comprehend it, I remembered the episode in the police. Thus I came to the conclusion, that the fingerprints are needed only of that person, in whom the very essence of this portrait is buried. The portrait and the fingerprints are a bunch. Fingerprints are rings of time. Therefore I am trying to create not a picture of a person, but a portrait of a time.

But the most important thing is wrinkles. Wrinkles are wealth. The life of that man, his pages and seal. I tried somehow to open it up through the wrinkles.  I searched the entire Tashkent, collected from all over the city the old Soviet flash. 23 heads. It's one thing when these wrinkles are through the "mirror". And just imagine, if in every wrinkle beats with 23 points. There's a light in every pore. This is such a technical move, with the help of which I was able to strip a person through wrinkles.

Did you notice the naked look? For me it was unexpected. This is the feature of a camera.  I make my heroes stand still for 5 minutes. Excerpt is 7 seconds, the person concentrated. Most large-format exhibition photographs were taken on a 4-5 take when the characters got tired and their eyes became concentrated.

Exhibition and photos on the Internet are two entirely different versions of the implementation of the photo project. The exhibition is a three-dimensional space. For "biometric passports," I deliberately chose a small room in which the portraits will be hung densely. One portrait occupies one square meter. They put pressure on the viewer. This is the whole intrigue.

I can't take pictures of strangers. Here are my friends, acquaintances, there is my classmate as well. Some of them I was shooting a hundred kilometers from Tashkent. With only this purpose. Sometimes I had to invite the heroes three times so that I was satisfied with the focus and facial expression.

In the portraits, there are some numbers with a ballpoint pen, a ruler. It's all the decorative part. What is crucial for me is just fingerprint and wrinkles. The rest is for your thinking out. Art stands for the viewer to speculate.

"Biometric passports" — an exhibition about the philosophy. Many viewers did not go deep into it. They looked at the pictures a little differently than I intended.

Such projects are always done at your own risk. In any case, there are costs. But finding money is the task of the resource man. And the artist should give interesting material and create.

Contemporary photography in Uzbekistan.

Changes in photography in our country are associated with the emersion of color photography. Analog photography required some preparation, without which it was simply impossible to photograph. Now photography does not require that preparation.

Our site is not very saturated with contemporary art. There should be many such sorts of projects. Uzbekistan is very poor with contemporary photography. We have a big gap here. Unlike Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and especially Russia, we are very far behind in modern areas of photography. We are in a sad situation, in my opinion. Not the way I'd like to.

I assume one of the main reasons for this is the lack of art historians and analysis. We have no printed publications, no free art sites. Bonum Factum is almost the only such platform today. Previously, this gallery served as a single place, where more independent and free project were carried out. The development of conceptual art requires competition and projects. We don't one.

The future of photography in Uzbekistan is ambiguous due to the fact that there are no experts, publications, platforms and competition. But it will develop in parallel with everything else.

For the same reason, we are collapsing the continuity on which everything is based. Young people have no motivation to learn. They learn through the Internet. But physical contact is still alive. If there was an art critic who could analyze, advise, it would be much more effective for them.

There are very few galleries in Uzbekistan where you can exhibit for free. There is no such thing in Kazakhstan, by the way. But on these platforms we have censorship. But on these platforms we have censorship.

The phenomenon of single photography.

In my opinion, one of the peculiarities of the modern world is the availability of photos. The era of single photography in the world of the Internet has come to an end. The network has given rise to the trend of abundance.

In the twentieth century there was a single photo. Masterpieces of classical photography — single. Then it began to get out, especially now with a big number of photographers. If earlier these masterpieces could be made as piece goods, now, probably, every tenth photographer can make images of this level.

If we talk about the world of art, there are conceptual ideas to replace a single. Photographers began to make a series of photos. And at the same time, the Internet has generated a new layer — a single photo. What a paradox.

What do I mean? The Internet is a source not for a thousand, but billions of photos. The viewer flips through it and does not linger on the images for more than 30 seconds. The younger generation has learned to make great photos. Only through such images can somehow hold the viewer's attention. That is what we call a paradox.

Of course, this has nothing to do with serious art. It's a gorgeous kitsch photo. It is impossible to have an idea here because there is a mass audience on the Internet. He/She won't be wondering what this picture is about. And in art everything was based only on these complex and deep ideas. But for this the viewer must be prepared.

The Mark of Victor An in the history of photography.

I cannot say that it is hard for me that photographers do not have political and broad public support. I am 72 years old. I've had many exhibitions. In 1996 I had an exhibition in Korea. In the history of an independent country it was the first foreign exhibition of free photography.

When I was a reporter looking for my way into art photography, I thought about the direction to take. It was possible to develop the Uzbek theme here, but I realized that no matter how well I shot, I could not open the Uzbek theme better than the Uzbek one. Even if my works are more powerful. Uzbek feels this spot with cell, not the head. Then it occurred to engage in Korean subject because this is what i feel with cell.

I have children, grandchildren. We live in Uzbekistan for over 80 years. Many have forgotten the Korean language. But someday the grandson of any person may ask: where are we from and who are we? the person is obliged to ask this question from the inner self.

I am obliged to leave  this document of my story, of our story to my descendants. Documentary photography became more important than the artistic one. I must manage to finish this story of Korean subject till the end.

Following project.

It will be a virtual exhibition of paintings. The images will be projected on a large scale on the entire space of the exhibition hall. I saw such exhibitions in Moscow, but on closer inspection, we saw pixels instead of brush strokes.

Although strokes are the main value of paintings, their structure and live meat. How much information in the cracks of the stroke! Cracks are a biography of time. I found a way to take pictures so even the canvas material can be visible and all the strokes even in closest inspection.

My other project "Friends of friends" will be held in the House of photography this year. I am actually not a portraitist, but over 40 years of professional activity, I can say that have enough number of great portraits. Some people are gone, but their children remain. And to make this exhibition is my duty before them.

Sabina Bakaeva