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Irina Chmyreva: “Photographers Are Artists Too”

Irina Chmyreva: “Photographers Are Artists Too”

Days of Contemporary Art (DOCA) festival is a large-scale spring event. Famous artists and beginners from all over Russia and other countries take part in it. The exhibition presents paintings, sculptures, graphic works, installations, photos, performances, workshops, and lectures. Irina Chmyreva became the supervisor of photo projects of DOCA festival. She is a supervisor of international photo and contemporary art exhibitions. Today, Ms. Chmyreva is a mentor to many beginning photo artists in the IGUMO.  

Irina Chmyreva - PhD in Art History, leading research associate at the Research Institute of Theory and History of Fine Arts under the Russian Academy of Arts, Associate Professor of the Department of Photography of IGUMO, Supervisor of photo projects at DOCA 2019 

This year, DOCA has two directions: researching the topic of emotions and commemorating the 140th anniversary of Kazimir Malevich. The works dedicated to the author of Black Square include pieces of art by young artists and a historical section, which presents the pieces of art by classic contemporary art authors. They include artists Valeriy Cherkashin and Natalia Cherkashina who have been working in the field of photography for 40 years already. In 1992, they created a Suprematist Bedroom: the artists organised the space so that every visitor feel the influence of a suprematist ‘condenser’. “At DOCA 2019, this famous project is presented as an archive photo but we increased its size so that the photo is stretched from floor to ceiling. Thanks to modern technologies, viewers can once again feel the scale and immerse in the piece of art displayed 30 years ago”, says Irina Chmyreva. 

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The participants of DOCA festival include lecturers of IGUMO, photographers, and artists who are the mentors and role models to the students as Ms. Chmyreva is. 

They managed to surprise and inspire not only their students but also all the guests of the festival. For example, the work by Andrey Akimov ‘Antiquitites. You May Touch’ represents the first samples of new 3D printing of photos. The author depicted museum exhibits on his photos and suggested not only watching but also touching them. Within the Geometry of the Everyday project, Vadim Gushchin, a famous Russian photographer and artist, Head of the Department of Photography of IGUMO, presented new abstractions. He showed that taking pictures of usual household items, books, sheets of paper, pencils, and souvenir badges in the neutral background make them free of the dictatorship of form function and represent colour and line in their natural way. 

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In addition to works of famous artists, the exhibition presented the works of young photographers, the students of the Faculty of Design, whose mentor and teacher is Irina Chmyreva. 

“Every project demonstrates the authors’ bright personality and extraordinary approach. However, the interest is caused not by the authors’ desire to stand out and be different from others but their careful attention to the topic chosen and its unexpected solution”, shares Ms. Chmyreva. 

Anastasia Khmelevskaya, a student of the Faculty of Photography of IGUMO and an author of one of the projects exhibited, spoke about human emotions. According to her, people often conceal their true feelings when trying to look happy. Ms. Khmelevskaya took a series of posed photos where the main character smiles pretending to be happy in most inappropriate situations. The author showed how ridiculous it might look. 

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The photographer believes: if a person always experiences or simulates happiness, he or she will stop feeling its value. 

The students use different approaches in their projects. For example, Diana Furmanova conducted the analytical study of photos related to the topic of emotions. She analysed the photos of faces of sportspeople taken during competitions. As the analysis showed, only children’s expressions on the photos are natural because adult athletes often don’t forget to ‘play to the crowd’. Erik Depelyan, a third-year student, presented monumental black and white portraits of people in difficult life situations. He called his series of photos Survivors and demonstrated how those people’s experience reflected on their people. Thus, the results of a photo-journalistic training turned into an independent creative project. 

Photographic works of students were made in a variety of formats including installations. 

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Many of young authors paid much interest to advertising and fashion photos. At the same time, it is important for them not only to present beautiful image but also show how photos can influence the perception of people and change their attitude to certain things. 

Irina Chmyreva sees real artists in the students of the Faculty of Photography of IGUMO. For Ms. Chmyreva as a mentor, it is important to find individual approach to every one of them. Thus, sharing experience with them is not the only thing she does. 

In the first turn, Ms. Chmyreva strives to understand their interests, sources of inspiration, and lifestyle. It helps to reveal the personalities of young authors as efficiently as possible. 

“Photography as a field has a number of branches. It is important for photographers to find their own way. The uniqueness of our faculty lies in the fact that we give students the opportunity to try themselves in different styles. It helps them understand where and how they can unleash their potential”, she explained.


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Already in the course of training, the students understand what directions are interesting for them. They start working out their own styles. The multi-faceted projects exhibited a DOCA festival this year are the examples of that. 

“The first impression is the following: all works and authors are very different, however they are united by common values and closely interrelated. This is like a network made of separate units. However, only the full picture of this network provides us with a sense of the scale and diversity of our world. Works of artists and photographers are in dialogue with one another, not in confrontation”, comments Irina Chmyreva. 

The same happens in the world. Oftentimes people do not understand that a single mission unites them. However, with time they find common ground, which helps them act jointly. Art is the environment erasing the boundaries between people and contributing to initiating dialogue. 

We are open to dialogue on social networks. You can share your ideas and suggestions on new publications. 

Anna Repina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov


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