In the era when smartphones became a solid part of our body, it seems almost impossible to produce something meaningful in photography. This soft violation of the medium may seem to lessen the value of pictures that professionals in the area create. Furthermore, it looks as if almost everyone strives to become a photographer in today’s technological environment. Here, I will disprove the statement that global surrounding tries to assure us that every camera owner is an equal professional photographer. To give a relative argument, I will use works made by a Russian-born photographer and visual artist, Oleg Savunov.
Oleg Savunov was born in Saint Petersburg — the cultural capital of Russia. Maybe being surrounded by Western European type of architecture in a Russian city on a daily basis made him question the nature of landscape as an art genre. As a matter of fact, it is pretty logical: unlike his older colleagues, Savunov grew up and established as an artist during the 2010s, which means that he was free to choose which creative methods to study and, in addition, he never knew on practice about forbidden art that the Soviet Union tried to hide from artists during the Iron Curtain period.
The “Autumn Forest” series is where the photographer unpacks the term “landscape.” His main agenda was connecting natural landscapes with a glimpse of their social bits, which Savunov observed during childhood. He demonstrates documentation of physical interventions in the Bay Area landscapes, but there is a twist in their visual appearance. This moment slightly references Francisco Infante and Robert Morris’ practice — creating an illusion, a virtual reality fracture in the physical world. Unlike his predecessors, Savunov inserts panels covered with photo w that were a mass-production product during the 1980s in the Soviet Union. These panels blend into the surroundings the photographer puts the wallpapers into. By doing that, the artist creates a new myth based on surrealistic and post-truth aesthetics. Every piece title refers back to the cliche titles of such wallpaper packs, such as “Lakeside view,” “Golden Autumn,” or “In the Caucasus mountains.”
So here we are in a world where every second person claims to be acquainted with photography as a medium. However, taking a random snapshot of your lunch or a selfie in portrait mode is no challenge to careful research that artists like Savunov carry out months before pointing their camera at the “model.” Seeing how photographers continue to execute their creative agenda makes us understand that this practice remains far from the mass culture image a contemporary person is used to.
Sasha Souther, Phd