Lev Melikhov's Muscovites and Moscow
November 10, 2016 – February 28, 2017
Lev Melikhov's photo exhibition at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation features around 100 works by the veteran photographer – portraits of Moscow's prominent artists and curators, men of letters, actors and directors displayed along with views of Moscow, where all of these talented people have lived and worked, at one time or another.
Lev Melikhov likes to say that before shooting somebody's portrait you need to "somehow live" with them, you need strong emotions to make a good picture – you need to feel your model, this is the only way to make them look real, so that an inimitable character, a unique personality is revealed in the photograph. These portraits are not a product of a single photo session, but of multiple meetings, conversations, friendship, memories, internal connections between the photographer and his sitter. Many of the portraits exhibited at the show – including those of writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, actor Oleg Yankovsky, curator Olga Sviblova, film director Eldar Ryazanov and artist Leonid Purygin – have already become classic, iconic images. An artist is a special character for Melikhov, a character the photographer has been observing for many years as he created a gallery of images spanning an era of Russian art. Some of the artists are pictured with their work, such as Vladimir Yankilevsky and Grisha Bruskin, others were photographed in their studios, their surroundings saying a lot about the artist's world (portraits of Eduard Steinberg, Francisco Infante and Dmitry Krasnopevtsev), and some were left in an expressly austere space, focusing solely on the figure, its posture, contrasts between light and shade (Dmitry Prigov, Ivan Chuikov or the disappearing Igor Makarevich). To show his sitters' individuality Melikhov uses an array of techniques – but never cropping or post-processing.
Just like with his models, Lev Melikhov has had a long and emotionally-charged relationship with Moscow. The photographer often says that he loves and understands Moscow better than many Muscovites. It is with a feeling of heartfelt affection that Melikhov speaks about Moscow, about its beauty and grandeur, its contrasts and contradictions, and even its everyday but nonetheless charming images. His surprising angles can be shocking, unsettling and astonishing as you see Moscow's familiar squares, its grand architecture or even its everyday life from a different perspective and discover a vigorous, energetic Moscow, where memories of the past chime with a craving for the future.
Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin have said:
"We have wanted to stage this exhibition for years and it has finally arrived at our Foundation. Lev Melikhov's works are not only true psychological portraits, depicting unique individualities, but also a mirror of the entire era of 1980s – 2000s, for it was these people who helped define this difficult and contradictory period of Russian history. We thought it would be interesting to hold a show featuring both pictures of Moscow and portraits of famous and talented Muscovites and we hope that the exhibition will appeal both to those who clearly remember the era captured in Lev Melikhov’s photos and to those who see it as bygone days."