THE PLACE IS NOT IMPORTANT (2010 - 2011)
All works: 15,6cm x 15,6cm, pigment print, most works: edition 3 + 1 AP
Text Ljudmila Belkin, translation Michelle Schuhmacher
The denying thought in the title of the project “The place is not important” gives a hint about Julia Smirnova's debate with herself. The project cleared up these questions. Nevertheless, the striking “no” coins the title and therewith the idea of the whole project. For this reason we might become curious about the development that made Julia Smirnova dismiss goals that were important to her originally.
The idea of conceptual work provided impetus for the project in the first place. Julia Smirnova's main concern was with the region around the Black Sea. The close vicinage of different countries raise the question of origin and influences again and again. Following this concern, the study should culturally and visually engage in the similarities in and differences between these countries. In 2008 the photographer went on her first journey. Already in the process of taking the pictures and more intensely when sifting through the developed photographs, Julia Smirnova questioned her original intention. She came to the conclusion, that our image of foreign cities is an exotic one, whereas the pictures that were taken in the actual place seem ordinary and similar to each other; that the colourfulness of our imagination, the imperative “certainly it is very different there”, is not being confirmed in real life. If one tries to reset the inner vision to “point zero” one will be surprised of how small the differences between the curtains of this world are. Simultaneously Smirnova realized that a thematic project would limit her photographic work: In fact, it doesn't matter where the pictures are taken. Considering this, the experience - the place is not important - became leitmotif and title of the new series. This was in 2010.
In the process of reversion, the positive basis of the project was formed. When Julia Smirnova was shifting gradually from portraits to photographs of urban landscapes around the year 2007, her photography was still mainly concentrated on the “simple things” and details. Now detached from a specific location, the motif moves more predominantly into the focus of the photographer. “Motif” is the key word in the artist's reflection of her project, that links the visual and the conceptional axes of the picture like a knot.
Primarily the motif is an object. The photographer has a set of motifs that are repeated in the pictures of the series: Bicycles, individual aged items on the street, fences. As the picture is taken spontaneously and the motif is almost never being circled around by the camera, she interprets the repetition as an expression of character: Obviously these motifs correspond with her temper, the release clicks automatically, as soon as the “eye” finds them. The pool of motifs makes Smirnova independent. “Her” motifs can be found everywhere.
The motif gets a different meaning, when Julia Smirnova aligns her project with the history of photography. She defines her individual style of photographical image as “classical”: This means: the picture is built “after rules”, it is compositional. Everything stands on its place. The choice of motifs however, Smirnova's actual targets, is “modern”. These are often the low-key, meaningless objects. In the mixture of classical and modern, the next opposition of Smirnova is expressed. With the “orderly” construction of the composition she reacts on the widely spread dynamic type of photography which is conventionalized to the amateur-like: small camera, flash, a seemingly spontaneous composition. In fact, she is kind of an “in-between” herself. Neither does Smirnova think about the composition when she takes the pictures, nor does she set them into scene. Nevertheless she keeps the compositional values in mind and takes them into account at the latest in the choice of pictures for the series.
Contemplating a single picture, the one aspect of it becomes distinguishable that Julia Smirnova calls “structure”. This means a graphical and constructional concentration of the composition, its transmission line. The structures emerge in the nests of the twigs of the trees, in the patterns of the fences and facades, in the perspective outlines of buildings and curb sides. It increases the emotional tension of the picture. Apart from the mere photographical aims this tension is a gesture of conveying. It is through this gesture that the photographer shares with the spectator the surprise and joy that she feels strolling with the camera.
In this project, “the place” is not important, however, the “spectator” is. Julia Smirnova has envisaged various roles for the spectator. She takes on two of these roles herself. On the photograph's way to the series, it is being sifted several times. At first, the photographer selects the pictures that she likes spontaneously - just like a “regular” spectator would do. Then the chosen pictures are being observed repeatedly over months: Are the light, the coloration, the composition etc. right? Does the picture fit into the series? Smirnova involves spectators from the World Wide Web into the second phase of sifting and selection. She shows her photos in different social networks and observes the reactions. This does not mean that the “likes” on facebook determine the series. In some cases high numbers of online approval work as a warning to Smirnova: that the picture is “too beautiful”. The online exhibition gives the photographer the knowledge that the pictures are being looked at. As a result, she sees her own photography differently, namely with the eye of the spectator.
Box, 2011, Paris
Bunnies, 2010, Paris
Carpets, 2011, Paris
Flag, 2010, Paris
Guardian, 2010, Paris
Hendrix, 2010, Paris
Letterbox, 2010, Paris
Montgallet, 2010, Paris
Orange bike, 2010, Paris
Pacific raincoats, 2010, Paris
Paradise cars, 2011, Paris
Paradise sushi, 2011, Paris
Pink table, 2011, Paris
Rue Guillamot, 2010, Paris
Servica rapide, 2011, Paris
Tour Eiffel, 2010, Paris
Yacco, 2011, Paris
Snow, 2011, Paris
Bike and the watering can, 2011, Paris
Black kitten, 2011, Paris
© Julia Smirnova 2017