"Photography is one of the channels through which the present penetrates into the future, just as the art of the past got inside us. For me photography is a means to express systems of opinions and values, the author’s ideology."—Nikolay Bakharev
The Siberian-born photographer, Nikolay Bakharev, isn’t particularly well-known in the States, but the Julie Saul Gallery and Dashwood Books in New York want to change that. Reared in an orphanage and largely self-taught, Bakharev began taking photographs in the early 1970’s and through the final days of the former Soviet Union. At at time when the State controlled everything, it was actually illegal to photograph the nude, much less engage in private commercial enterprise creating and selling one’s photographs. These photographs, therefore, were never meant for public consumption. They were intimate (even illicit) private photographic sessions between sitter and artist.
Bakharev’s single-minded approach to his work differed greatly from his clients’ expectations of their portrait session. While the sitters hoped for photographs that made them look beautiful or special, Bakharev states, "From my point of view, I expose the nature which people do not want to admit to, if it does not fit their notions of themselves." This tension between Bakharev and his clients is what makes these images simmer.
Dashwood Books has recently published a soft cover monograph of his work, Amateurs & Lovers, (here’s a video preview), and on the 10th, the Julie Saul Gallery will open Bakharev’s first US solo show also titled, “Amateurs & Lovers.” It will be interesting to see how an American 21st Century audience, with disparate recollections of the Soviet Union and its legacy, responds to this work. —Lane Nevares