The New Crowd
Gordin: Featured Artist in the Première Issue
I was born in 1946, the first year after World War
II. My parents just survived hardships of evacuation and returned back
home to Riga, now under Soviet occupation. I grew up among the Russian
speaking population of Latvia, and Russian culture become my root
culture. I graduated from the technical college as aviation engineer but
never worked as such; instead I joined Riga Motion Studios as a designer
of equipment for special effects. I was in my early twenties and mostly
ignorant about art. At this time social realism was an official culture
of the country and I did not care about it too much. Information about
modern western art was hardly available and my knowledge of it was
highly limited. I started to photograph when I was nineteen, driven by
desire to create my own personal style and vision. I was involved in
portraiture and did some documentary shots, but soon realized the
results did not satisfy me.
I put my camera aside and concentrated on reading (Dostoevsky,
Bulgakov) and cinematography (Tarkovsky, Parajanov). I was constantly
looking for the way to express my personal feelings and thoughts using
photography. One year later it came to me clear and simple. I decided to
In 1972 I created my first, and most important image
— Confession. I instantly recognized the potential possibilities of
conceptual approach, and the knowledge acquired from this image become a
backbone of the work I produced over the next twenty five years.
In 1974, after years of disgust with communist
authorities, I left my country and arrived in USA.
Conventional versus Conceptual.
Do I point my camera outwards to the existing world, or
turn it inward towards my soul? Am I taking photographs of existing
reality, or creating my own world, so real but non-existent?
Results from these two opposite approaches are notably
different and, in my opinion, conceptual photography is a higher form of
artistic expression that places photography on the level of painting,
poetry, music and sculpture. It employs the special talent of intuitive
vision. By translating the personal concepts into the language of
photography, it reflects the possible answers to major questions of
being: birth, death and life. Creating an idea and transforming it into
reality is an essential process of conceptual photography.
Today's conventional approach, with a few exceptions,
completely dominates Art Photography. But introduction of digital
photography will change this balance. The ease of producing altered
realities will bring a new wave of talented artists who will use it to
express their special world of visions, with all its meanings, symbols
In a world of high technology will you still believe in
truthfulness of a photograph? And does it matter?
To me it matters. In all these years of creating
conceptual images, I tried to make them as realistic as possible. My
technical abilities have improved, allowing me to broaden horizons for
my ideas. But this is not the most important part of the process. The
poor concept, perfectly executed, still makes a poor photograph.
Therefore, the most important ingredient of the powerful image is a
concept. The blend of a talent to create a concept and the skill to
deliver it — those are two major building blocks of creating a
convincing conceptual photograph.
It is not a new idea to manipulate photographic images.
As a matter of fact all images are manipulated to a certain degree. The
real power of photography emerges when altered reality is presented as
existent and is expected to be perceived as such. An obviously
manipulated image is a trick that shows a lack of understanding of the
unique power of photography — the belief engraved in our subconscious
that what was captured by the camera has to exist. In the best examples
of successfully manipulated images the question "Is it real?"
does not arise.
My first introduction to digital manipulations showed me
how similar analog and digital techniques are. Each has it's bright and
dark spots. At this moment I don't see any reason to switch to digital.
I still prefer the glowing quality of original print and the laborious
process to achieve it. Yet, I believe that it is only matter of time
before digital approach replaces the analog and conceptual transcends
the conventional. I also want to believe that, many years from now,
artists will continue to develop the language of photography,
understanding and preserving its unique power.