Billboards, mannequins in the shop windows, self-absorbed people, busy streets are common features of New York City. A lot of colors, a lot of noise, a lot of rushing around. Even though I have lived there for one year, I haven’t fit into this magical, captivating and at the same time tiresome daily flow – I remained more of an observer, a passer by. And yet the time spent in this city has been very meaningful and enriching for my creative and existential search.
My series of photographs “The Kaleidoscope of New York City” is an attempt to explore what the city life is about. I chose the method of an accidental double exposure. I had my camera with me almost all the time and observed everything that unfolded before my eyes – ordinary mundane events of the city life; the shots were taken without any premeditation – just anything that drew my attention, and on the film the images would entangle with each other in the most peculiar way forming an inseparable bundle of lines, shapes, textures and colors. Once the films were developed and I looked at them for the first time, I was always surprised to see the outcome – sometimes the apparent visual cacophony was disappointing, at least at the first glance, but there were also interesting surprises – intriguing, captivating visual entanglements which were filled with the harmony of colors, an interesting arrangement of detail, a peculiar life perspective.
Art photography has its own particular language. Even though it is based on the same esthetical principles as other visual arts its particularity lies in that the camera reproduces a precise and adequate account of the external forms of reality. Being aware of it the photographer looks for the exceptionality of his individual shot, he searches for exceptional circumstances, for exceptional phenomena, an exceptional moment. This is often the yardstick by which the value of a photograph is measured. The life experience, the cultural background, the philosophical and esthetical views of the photographer play a huge role in this respect. And before the the fleeting moment of life is captured in the camera it’s already filtered through the mental patterns of the photographer. And often because of that the deeper levels of manifesting reality are missed or marred.
Taking photographs of New York City I deliberately tried to avoid any planning or preconceptions, I tried to open up to the daily flow that surrounded me, I was not trying to look for any particular situations or successful shots. I just observed the life around me, without evaluations and judgments, without trying to influence or contrive it in any way. I wanted the life itself to be a natural part of the creative process. Only later when I was looking at the slides I made an attempt to decipher and to understand the language of the double exposure images. If the photograph captured my attention for a longer period of time, if my intellect could not make a common sense of it and could not tell a coherent story, if my usual concepts or my frantic labelings would not come up with any comprehensive outcome, if the chatter of my mind would die down and if would be able to hear the images telling me their own story then I would choose this picture for the show. There is often a confrontation between the two blending images, or a dialogue, or they complement each other. However, being brought together by a playful coincidence they are unable to tell a consistent, coherent. intelligent story. The understanding can never be complete, unanswered questions still remain as well as an invitation to just be with this ungoing process of cognition, recognition and comprehension.
This process requires a constant renewal and letting go of common ideas, concepts and routine thinking. By allowing the mind just to observe, to move freely from one part of the photograph to another, by moving constantly the attention from one image to another, gradually emerges the understanding that there are deeper connections between the images; the images start telling something in their own way – unusually, intangibly, elusively, however it is about profound things, about significant human issues, it seems. Juxtapositions can make one laugh or irritate, can have a soothing or shocking effect, can surprise or make one blank. This is, of course, a very individual process and everyone is free to see what they like depending on the mood and the willingness to open up for new visual experiences.
Every photograph is interesting for me in its own way, but I chose one to interpret here for you. This photograph depicts a man wearing a hat and waiting at a subway station, which is covered by another image – a word “MESK” scratched on a dark staircase railing and some cars further away. The whole photograph is quite dark as if in a twilight, only the railway tracks leading to the light, the train is leaving the station to the opposite direction. From darkness to light – a familiar concept. But let us continue. In the middle of the image a man dressed in black Jewish orthodox clothes – black coat, black hat – stands in the middle of the platform, he stands there alone, calm and dignified. No hurry, no agitation, no impatience – it seems he could stand there forever with the quiet resolve and at peace with the surroundings and with oneself. Another shot depicting the word scratched with a sharp object on the railing of the staircase is in a strong contrast to the stillness of the man. Humility and aggression. Perhaps some youngster looking for his place in life was eager to leave his legacy, his trace in the world. For a long time I did not know what the word “MESK” means and I thought it was an incidental choice of letters, but on the internet I found that it actually does have a meaning – it means a person having exceptional qualities, powers. Then as the attention moves towards the waiting Jew it moves with the impact of that screaming word and slowly comes the realization that the humble man is the one to have exceptional qualities. The other one who left the mark perhaps has thought that by carving the word he somehow claims those powers or would be remembered, but actually his zest has just left a awkward mark like a visual curse, like an engraved symbol of the eternal persecutions of the meek.
Turn a kaleidoscope and the pieces of glass come into movement then freeze for a moment into a colourful ornament, another moment gives a completely new ornament. A little touch and there is something entirely new, should you wish to turn it back, you can never get the same picture. As I was taking the photographs, the images, like those glass pieces, froze in different constellations. An antique sculpture watching over a sprawled, sunbathing, sleeping man, Disney toys teasing and annoying the Statue of Liberty, golden reflections paving the way for a girl with a dog… Every time I look at my pictures of New York City I find or realise something new, or understand in a new way. I hope that by looking at my works the spectator will also find something interesting and important for
him- or herself.