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An unexpected discovery – 5 talents from the Rodchenko School for Photography

I was not specially prepared for the ViennaPhotoBookFestival since I'm not a collector of books, even if I admire this special medium for photography and have quite a nice bookshelf in our student flat. So in my expectations I saw myself buying some undiscovered books: some of well-known established artists and some of aspiring talents. But I have been rocked by the work of five young photographers from Moscow, who presented their final work from the Rodchenko School for Photography and Multimedia. Together with the genius and perfectionist publisher Hannes Wanderer they created an very limited edition of photo books for their diploma projects. Back home I felt that I have to write something down about this encounter and maybe inspire someone to talk to them and grab one of their last books – if they still have one.

The first book in my hands is "25 Weeks of Winter" by Ekaterina Anokhina. When I flip through the book and stop at the first colored double-page in green and yellow, I always remember my girlfriend's little Lomo / Hipstamatic prints hanging on our walls to preserve the feeling of sunshine during cold days. This colorful page brings back memories from the warmer seasons of the year. And I feel a lot of desire to better times when I skim through the book. So for me it's a book about desire. And the envelope really looks like our prints hanging around in the bedroom – you caught me with that.

Continuing with Igor Samolet's "Be Happy", which is for myself the most stunning book of the complete festival so far, follows young people in Russia and gives and small view into their living. I was thinking about Rimaldas Viksraitis' great work, which was exhibited together with Martin Parr two years ago, who was working in a much more involved way. I feel Igor's book has a more distanced view, but still very emotional and that's what I like so much about it. There is an ambivalence view on the clique, even if he was working very close to the people. My deep respect for this project and the fantastic narrative plot of the book.

"C15E" documents a road tip of Alla Afonina, who followed people on the move with her camera and gives an even deeper insight with written dialogs she added to the book. Some of the places in her photos look so familiar to me: We did a much shorter trip trough the northwest of Romania some time ago and I discover a lot of analogies and likewise happenings in my personal experience. I even have two very similar photos in my archive, which sucked my attention. Reading through the book brings back a lot of emotions from the first trips to Eastern Europe, where I was stunned and a little bit shocked for some time. And it's interesting to see the visual disruption between the region I call "home" and the regions in Eastern Europe I want to discover in more details.

"Ozerikta" is the project from Vera Laponkina. She documents places around Kaliningrad and portraits people in knight's armor or dressed like on a renaissance festival. So I personally split this book into two parts: Photographs of buildings and the portraits, even if a connection between both might be anticipated. But I always look on the book twice to get both types of images and this makes it really curious. Sometimes the (unfinished) buildings look inappropriate for the landscape behind them or embedded in an implausible way between the rest of a village. But the same feelings I have for the costumed people, misfits in the present. A stunning book!

In "HOME" Olga Matveeva discovers places in the multinational Kosovo and there is a lot of tension in her photography. One photograph shows undressed display dummies, waiting to be prepared for the outside world. Maybe this is a analogy to a country with such a short independent (or not?) history. I feel like looking on a society at a very labile stage, where a lot of possible paths can be pursued. You find open doors in the book, but also abandoned places. One photo with a luminous street sign says a lot about this project: "ALIVE?", but in the readers mind there should be also added "ALIVE!". Some blank pages split the book into the photographic part and a more documentary part with photos of various objects from the region – a technique I discovered in other books in which Hannes Wanderer has been involved (coincidence or not?) and it was a good choice also in this publication. For myself the title of the book is not only "HOME", but also "IDENTITY".

The books of this group of artists is a real enrichment for the festival and I think also Martin Parr and Gerry Badger had a favorite on the table of this young talented photographers. Everyone of them did a great job and every project from this write-up evoked memories and feelings inside – it was a great pleasure! So if there are any books left, go for them and also see the exhibition of their work on the 3rd floor.

Update: You need to visit Hannes Wanderer's store in Berlin (highly recommended!) or order the books at his store 25books! And Josef Chladek also wrote reviews for Ozerikta, 15 Weeks of Winter and be happy.

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