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Culture news, 05.05.2004 13:22

Photos show city's seedier side

Alexei Titarenko St. Petersburg may have got a fresh coat of paint for its 300th anniversary last year, but photographer Alexei Titarenko prefers to focus his lens on the seedier side of the city, believing that its charm lies in its air of peeling decay.

"There are quite a lot of well restored cities in the world ... and if St. Petersburg were to become like them, its individuality would be lost," Alexei Titarenko wrote in a recent e-mail from New York. His images, which are now on display at Le Carre Blanc restaurant in Moscow, depict a dilapidated metropolis, in which crowds appear as a faceless, ghostly presence thanks to the use of time-lapse photography.

The Leningrad-born photographer first showed his black-and-white pictures of monumental buildings and bleak street corners at a 1989 show in France, and has since held personal exhibitions in Italy, Luxemburg and the United States, largely focusing on St. Petersburg, although he has also portrayed Venice and Paris.

Most of the photographs at the current retrospective exhibition were taken in the perestroika and Yeltsin eras, but echo classic images from earlier years. "I try to photograph other cities in a different style, leaving St. Petersburg always looking the same," stated Titarenko. His aim is to convey a "generalized image" of St. Petersburg's tragic fate in the 20th century, stated Titarenko, and the photographer finds inspiration from the city's surroundings, which he believes, "weigh down and impress their mentality on people."

According to Titarenko, comparisons between his images and the works of Dostoevsky "are clear to see," and he stated that the novelist's works were "very close" to his style. "Just like me, Dostoevsky avoids the salubrious side of life, but very often expresses himself in a romantic style," the photographer commented.

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