“Photography knows how to lie, therefore it is an art.”
Kostya Smolyaninov tells about Andrey Belkov’s creative work.
Photography is a complete trickery, photography knows how to lie, therefore it is an art. Photography is always better than its original, though it is an original itself. It’s hard to believe but that’s the way it is. A photograph is a window, a photograph is an eye. Andrey Belkov’s photograph is always a square. Is it square window, square eye? Exactly! All of us know that war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.
All the civilized world, all the progressive mankind used to see vertical format as a portrait one and horizontal format as a landscape one for some reasons. Truly it’s enough to change an angle to see a man’s environment instead of himself and vice versa, you can do whatever you want. Here comes the main lie of photography: we cut out a horizontal rectangle for landscape from all the diversity of the world. It’s such a terrible narrowness. Salvation comes in a square picture with equal sides, nothing to turn. Andrey Belkov looks at the world through this square with his eyes wide open, cutting off needless but capturing significant.
Andrey Belkov, a photographer from Moscow, came to photography because of an interest to new digital technologies as many others did, and as many others did he turned back to magic of film photography we know from childhood. Belkov is an award-winning photographer, a prestige exhibitions participant with publications in the leading photography magazines. Andrey came through youthful enthusiasm for Michael Kenna’s works as many others did and then he created his own style. Of course, Belkov’s style arose not in vacuum because it’s impossible to be out of context in a large but so close world of photography.
Looking into Andrey Belkov’s pictures you see clearly his creative roots from Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typological works, Gerhard Richter’s early photorealistic landscapes and Stephen Shore’s pictures of American daily life. Through cold German conceptualism of the Düsseldorf School’s first representatives such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky, through traditional Japanese minimalism in Hiroshi Sugimoto’s sea landscapes we’re back to Russian reality where we meet local adepts of this laconic style. It’s Alexander Gronsky and Andrey Belkov. This style has no name, so it’s very pliant and handy to work with. I’d call this style as “an intent gaze”.
I never met Andrey in person but it’s easy to imagine how he feels a vague impulse, park a car, cross a road and gazes intently at usual Russian landscape divided in half by hypnotizing horizon line. Square look, window look, look in wide-eyed astonishment. Andrey Belkov says about his creative work: “Harmony is significant for me. And so is order. Order is disorder and chaos. Light. Color. Form. I don’t like “places”. I like what I see there. I’m keen on seeing something that can be turned into picture as a result. It doesn’t matter whatever it’s a plain field of a city full of people and cars. The most important thing is to see and to capture. I don’t remember street names, cities, villages, objects. I remember visual impression, remember images I find for myself.”
Andrey Belkov’s favorite photography genres are still life and landscape. Although Andrey’s landscape is a quasi-landscape, flat landscape in Slusarev’s style, aloof landscape in Shklovsky’s style. Red and rusty pictures from “Ferrum” series are also the product of peering at random metal corrosion images. It is the product and the process at the same time, meditative process and the process of meditation.
Belkov’s landscapes are uninhabited, quiet and refined. There is everything and nothing here at the same time. There is nothing needless though, that’s for sure. You won’t find an importunate composition in Belkov’s pictures. After all, the best composition is an inconspicuous composition. I can’t get rid of this feeling that the photographer lives his life the way we see in his pictures. This is eightieth level in authenticity. This is stunning silence. Such are the pictures from “Winter Blues” series. A lot of blue, air, ice and water. Frontal horizon and world view as the final destination. But real horizon line often gets lost in a great number of fake ones, and we know already: photography is a fraud.
“Russian Winter” tells us the same story but it’s perhaps the most “Becher-style” and the most ironic photographer’s work. Although German founding fathers of the genre worked in the field of functioning and useful things cataloging. Belkov’s works here are the hymn to Russian disorder, the song about abandoned things. Of course, there are birches in this series, how to live without them?! And here is perhaps the most beautiful Andrey Belkov’s work “Re Minore” having all the best, all the deepest from the author’s creative work. A landscape with no boarders. A landscape with no frame boundaries.
I’m rewatching Andrey Belkov’s works once again and I’m coming back in my mind to Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog”. They probably look at the world in the same way, the way of conquerors. After all, photography is the way to capture reality. Here a picture is not so important perhaps. It’s enough to gaze intently into the world like into the abyss gazing into you. So the camera is left in a car trunk across the road, behind a horizon line.
Text: Kostya Smolyaninov.
Pictures: Andrey Belkov
Translation: Kseniya Cherepanova.