First Look at FotoFest 2012 Biennial Contemporary Russian Photography

Rita with a Cigarette, 2010
Rita with a Cigarette, 2010
Margo Ovcharenko

It's almost impossible to discuss FotoFest 2012 Biennial Contemporary Russian Photography as a whole, there are so many parts to it. For more than six weeks, Houston will be host to exhibits of more than 1,000 photographs by some 150 Russian artists covering the time from the late 1940s to 2012. There will be related panel discussions, curator and artist talks, book signings, tours, concerts and film screenings. That's in addition to the fine print auction, portfolio reviews and workshops. Whew!

Irina Chmyreva, one of the curators for this year's festival and a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, tells us, "FotoFest is really a great chance to tell the story, the history of Russian photography during this period."

Chmyreva says the images are grouped into a timeline and divided into eras. First there's After Stalin, "The Thaw:" The Re-emergence of the Personal Voice - The late 1950s-1970s. "For example, in "The Thaw," we will show [photographs] in the style of the 1960s and '70s. The subjects are very political, in black-and-white classical photography. The photographers were working in a very hard time, because society was not interested in photography too much."

There's also "Perestroika: Liberalization and Experimentation - The mid/late 1980s-2010s." "In that time there were many well-educated artists and photographers. They are still very active. We have about 68 artists in this exhibit and many of them are very famous around the world, but in very different ways. Some are involved in [fine art] photography, some are involved in documentary photography or photojournalism."

Untitled, 2011
Untitled, 2011
Tatiana Antonuk

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The third big group exhibition is "The Young Generation: 2007-2012." These people are very focused on themselves. They came into photography during the last seven to ten years. Many of them are younger than 30 years old. These people, they are still teenagers inside, so it's a kind of fragile, personal, subjective work. It's like, 'Oh, it's my hand. What does it mean?' They are exploring themselves and their friends.

"Also, some of these people are working in new technologies. But for them, these new technologies are very ordinary. They were born with this technology already around them, so to them it is very natural to use it. They don't think of it as manipulation, although, of course, it is."

The FotoFest 2012 Biennial opening night party is at 8 p.m. March 16 at FotoFest Headquarters Gallery, 1113 Vine. The exhibit there is "The Young Generation 2007-2012." Regular viewing hours there are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The festival runs through April 29. For a full schedule of other exhibits and events, visit www.fotofest.org or call 713-351-5857. Prices vary.

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