“Case History” comprises over 400 images portraying a new social class in Kharkov. Mikhailov had been in Berlin; he recalls what he encountered on his return: “Devastation had stopped. The city had acquired an almost modern European center. Much had been restored. . . . But I was shocked by the big number of homeless [people], before they had not been there.” A new name had been invented for this new class: the “bomzhes.” It describes, as Mikhailov explains, people “living in the streets, wherever they can stretch their bones . . . creatures that were once humans, but now . . . degraded, ghastly, appalling.” He chose the title of the series to hint at a “clinical file of a disease.” The images are shocking. Respini says, “Once you see these pictures from ‘Case History,’ they are impossible to forget.” Art critic Adrian Searle writes, “Part of me wished I had never looked at them.”
233 EUROPE There are numerous parallels between “Case History” and “Tea Coffee Cappuccino.” For a start, Mikhailov shot both series in full color. “The color ‘express-photo’ became for me the thing which mostly correlated with the new time,” he explains, with digital photo-centers, such as Agfa, Konica, and Fuji, opening on every street corner. “Both the rich and the poor wanted to have color photographs and there was only one distinction: the rich could afford them, the poor couldn’t.” He also deliberately shot the pictures like snapshots: faces are cropped off at the edge of the frame, verticals slant and skew, there is even red-eye caused by the camera flash. The aesthetic calls to mind amateur photography and lends both series a sense of directness and reality. However, this sense becomes complicated in “Case History” once one learns that Mikhailov asked his homeless subjects to pose for him, sometimes suggesting they remove their clothes, and moreover that he then paid them. This intervention not only complicates a documentary reading of “Case History,” but it also raises issues of ethics and exploitation. By contrast, in “Tea Coffee Cappuccino,” Mikhailov returned to a straightforward street photography approach. For ten years, he wandered his home city and with an unflinching eye captured disturbing scenes as they unfolded in front of him. He hoped to create an epic, sweeping picture of the time, saying, “I feel that the documentation of reality in this series can be regarded as a document of this period.” As such, “Tea Coffee Cappucino” presents a dismal and redemptive portrait of humanity in post-Soviet Russia. 6–7 From “Tea Coffee Cappuccino,” Kharkov, Ukraine, 2000–10 6 7
235 AFRICA 1 Mallam Galadima Ahmadu with Jamis, Pieter Hugo , Lagos, Nigeria, 2005. Digital C-print 1 SABELO MLANGENI NONTSIKELELO VELEKO GRAEME WILLIAMS MIKHAEL SUBOTZKY ESSOP TWINS DAVID GOLDBLATT JO RACTLIFFE GUY TILLIM PIETER HUGO VIVIANE SASSEN EDSON CHAGAS RUT BLEES LUXEMBURG MIMI MOLLICA YTO BARRADA AFRICA JOHANNESBURG CAPE TOWN DURBAN LIBREVILLE LAGOS MOSHI LUAN D A DAKAR TANGIER
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