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Thread: Kiev, Montreal

  1. #1
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    Kiev, Montreal

    http://www.galeriesimonblais.com/en/accueil.php

    I went to see "Kiev" today at Gallerie Simon Blais, in Montréal, the work of photographer Eliane Excoffier.

    The title was what got me of course; that a photo exhibit had the same name as one of my cameras just triggered the nerd curiosity--to be exact, though, my Kiev is the 4a rangefinder while Excoffier's is the Kiev 60 medium format SLR.

    I try to visit the Simon Blais gallery regularly, partly because it's in my neighbourhood, but also because it recurrently features photographers. Like most prominent art galleries, they both fascinate and annoy me. Fascinate me because they can get absolutely brilliant artists; annoy me because it always remind me of the isolated world in which modern art lives.

    "Kiev" is a little bit of both. The project is a series of black and white photographs taken with the Kiev 60 on a paper negative. The paper negative was then put in the enlarger and laboriously printed in the darkroom. Something like 10 to 30 minutes was needed to enlarge a single paper negative, so this is a labour of love. The photos have that dreamy quality peculiar to paper negatives, like Fox Talbot's calotypes. Because they require long exposure in-camera, that property was exploited in the composition of the picture: moving heads, superpositions, missing limbs, ghosts.

    It's hard to describe exactly what the pictures are about, of course, because they mean visually, not in words, but they focus primarily on the female body. They inhabit the vaguely Victorian backwaters of our brains, and the themes of entrapment, sexuality, as well as the grotesque, veils, ropes, hands, legs, gesture.

    That's where the exhibit is a little bit of both brilliant and annoying. Anybody who spent time around BFA/MFA students will recognize the familiar obsessions with sex, death, the gothic tone of the pictures, and what it depicts. If the execution were not original, sustained, and focused, this would be a typical scholarly disaster. The tight reins over the printing, the process, and the simplicity of subjects hold the photos together. Sometimes they are uninteresting, but never cringe-inducing catastrophes. The best pictures really stick in your head, and exemplify why the body is a legitimate subject in photography.

    A glass display case near the entrance shows together the Kiev 60 and two paper negatives, and I can't help thinking that many people will be absolutely at a loss to figure out what these "things" are, and how the hell one could take photos with it. When you spend a little too much of your time on photography boards, those things are not so striking, but the surprise to you is that other people are surprised!

    The exhibit is closing tomorrow, so I guess nobody here will ever go see it, but I promise to write an earlier review next time I go to the galleries...
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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    Krockmitaine's Avatar
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    Argh!
    I missed something interesting.

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    I don't quite understand the mechanics of this - to use a paper negative in a Kiev 60 (non-removable back) she would have had to load a single piece of paper in the dark (changing bag or other), taken the picture, removed the paper negative in the dark and replaced it, ad infinitum.

    Does she say why she used the Kiev 60 for this specifically? It seems to me she would have gotten the same effects with considerable less hassle using a large format camera of some sort and pre-loading film holders.
    i can't wait to take a picture of my thumb with this beautiful camera.

    - phirehouse, after buying a camera in the classifieds

  4. #4
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    If you use a changing bag, you can save some of the hassle, or if you have a darkroom nearby. She was working in a studio, so it's possible.

    She didn't say anything particular in the press releases about why the Kiev, so I presume it just happened to be her camera.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  5. #5

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    Hmm. Maybe seeing it in person makes more sense, but I'm still not sure why the Kiev 60 is an important part of this in of itself (important enough to be named in the title) - this method could have been used with any camera with the same results.

    I guess "Pentax, Montreal" doesn't have quite the same impact
    i can't wait to take a picture of my thumb with this beautiful camera.

    - phirehouse, after buying a camera in the classifieds



 

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