The art of photography is a momentary record of visual memory, the “presence” factor, a documentary, credible picture, an opportunity to capture the moment, an interpersonal communication medium and a means for having a dialogue with the viewer. This makes it different from other art forms. Photographer “focuses” his lens, trying to “capture” the most characteristic moment and show it to people. Art photography is valued as a “reflector” or mirror of public life and society, which combines the power of art and the import of a historical document.
The art photo positivism makes the viewer perceive reality in a different way and prompts him to contemplate and to act. A skill to compositionally design a frame and maximize its artistic reproduction generates the art of photography where momentary and monumental are one. To create masterpieces that can have an effect on the viewer, the author must possess artistic gift, receptive mind, keen eye and warm heart. Only then a story will make man think, dream, and approach life philosophically.
The Uzbek national photography has its background in rich cultural and spiritual heritage – namely the history chronicle left by Hudoyberdi Devanov from Khiva (1879-1940). It is valued for evidencing the aspiration of Khorezm oasis people to new life, for its interesting angle showing ancient minarets and unique ethnographic peculiarities of those days. Photographer’s “The Portrait of Islamhoja”, “Farm Work” and “Kalta Minor”, through the miraculous language of the lens, present stories of life. Devanov’s unique photographs serve as credible document from the recent past.
Later on, M. Penson, G. Zelmanovich and R. Shamsuddinov made a worthy contribution to the enterprise initiated by the country’s first photographer H. Devanov. In terms of the number of pictures taken M. Penson (1893-1959) outperformed all the others. As a press photographer for Pravda Vostoka newspaper he visited many remote areas, villages and cities, capturing the country’s heartbeat. The master’s uncompromising self-improvement raised the Uzbek photography to the rank of art.
Photographs of M. Penson have been regularly displayed at various exhibitions. In 1938, at the international exhibition in Paris he won the Grand Prix for his photo-study “The Uzbek Madonna”. The jury and the audience highly appreciated the work of the master for the comprehensive portrayal of the natural and spiritual beauty of Oriental woman. The colouring of traditional clothing was quite cleverly communicated. “The portrait shows the heart of a living person” – this was the succinct and accurate comment from artist Ruzy Charyev. M. Penson entered the history of Uzbek photography as a man with philosophical approach to life and keen sense for the subtleties of the world around. Significant contribution to the art of photography had also been made by Penson’s contemporaries A. Kuzmenko and Y. Yusupov.
Years of independence have led to new milestones in the development of Uzbek photography. In 2002 the Academy of Arts opened the Tashkent House of Photography, which in the same year joined the International Organization of art photography. Twenty eight professionals have come together in different photography departments under the Artists Union and enjoyed all the facilities made available to them for productive work.
Ideological and artistic perfection in photography can be compared with highly developed thought and aesthetic taste of an artist who can expose a person’s state of mind at a certain moment in life. Only those who have learned these golden rules of photography are capable of creating a true work of art.
Prestigious international exhibitions around the world successfully display works created by Uzbek photography masters. Among them is the winner of many international contests Tursun Ali. His photographs in monumental style won a bronze medal in Giovanni Crespi international competition. The photographer’s works are interesting for their artistic solution. For example, “The Nomads’ Spring-time” is a song-picture about people and the beautiful nature of Surkhandarya. Ordinary landscapes lovingly captured reveal the beauty of the land that is dear to the heart; they show the joys of labour and the daily life of ordinary people. In the portrait genre quite successful is “The Wise Man”, especially the character’s eyes and smile. A story in the majority of Tursun Ali’s photographs is a generalization. Certain events in people’s lives trigger imagination, and the author realizes his fantasies with great inspiration and enthusiasm. His close-ups show the appearance and beautiful soul of his characters.
Many words of commendation can be said about the work of V. Vyatkin and V. Zhirnov.
A recent exhibition, “Celebration in Tune with Modernity”, held at the Tashkent House of Photography presented about 200 works by the members of the photographers section of the Artists Union of Uzbekistan. The purpose of the exhibition was to introduce new names and lean about the photographers’ artistic individuality, and to provide comprehensive support to them. For instance, looking at an abstract photocomposition from the “Fire” series by H. Sharahmedov one can imagine anything, wandering in the wilderness of the soul. To understand the author’s idea behind the piece that shows dancing red lines under the sky, one must look deep into one’s heart, and then the observations of the abstractionist photographer and the fire of his heart will warm the soul of the viewer.
A piece is not perceived as art if there is no story. Symbols-details in abstractionism amplify the idea behind it. The audience’s aesthetic taste is also developed by photographs such as “Spring Thaw” by Iskandar Sadykzade, or “Lyrical Bridge” by Vladimir Schlosberg.
Love for one’s native land fills the art of Impressionist photographers, too. These include “My City” by R. Sharipov. Using Tashkent as example, in his low-key compositions the author employs interesting angles and colour palette to show great constructive work done over the years of independence. The photos picture the sites of the renewed city, and the focus is on the moment of birth, the joy of labour… With the angle of a geometric diagonal, Sharipov provided compositional excellence and integrity of his shots. His “Wedding in Mahalla” series won the Gold Medal of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan. Quite interesting are the pictures of Konstantin Minaichenko taken at different angles (“101 Legends of Samarqand”), where the ancient monuments appear in a new light as the messengers of history
Amazing natural beauty and majestic mountains inhabit the landscapes from “Tudakul” series by Abdugani Jumaev, a photographer from Navoi. He was mesmerized by miracles wrought from stone by Mother Nature – huge intricate rock formations. Photographed from different angles, these strange landscapes carry one’s thoughts into the distant past.
The Tashkent House of Photography hosts the School of art photography, where the well-known professionals such as R. Sharipov, I. Sodikov, and H. Faiziev offer master classes and deliver lectures on the theory of photography, the integrity of subject and composition, and the use of light. During practical sessions, trainees learn about the subtleties of making a photo-reports, landscapes, etc. The best works of the school graduates were presented at the exhibition “The World through Photographer’s Eye”. The school offers classes that teach new photography techniques and computer design skills.
International photo-biennale organized by the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan together with the Forum Foundation and the Tashkent city administration encourage the development of Uzbek photography. For example, the “TashkentAle-2008″ convened over 130 participants from 22 countries, who sent more than 700 photographs demonstrated in Tashkent and Bukhara. The Audience’ choice awards went to our compatriots V. Zhirnov, V. Sokolov, Tursun Ali, V. Ramazanova, and I. Sadykzade. “TashkentAle-2010″ received already nearly 2000 works from 174 photographers from 43 countries. More than 800 pictures were selected for the display. The photography art of Uzbekistan has been seeing positive changes in line with international standards; links with the world’s cultural community grow stronger, thus contributing to the further development, progress and well-being of this art form.