Contemporary Artistic Language of Uzbek Photography: From Realism to Conceptual Art

Contemporary Artistic Language of Uzbek Photography: From Realism to Conceptual Art


Contemporary Artistic Language of Uzbek Photography: From Realism to Conceptual Art



Throughout the development history of photography art, its opponents considered it an imitation of painting, reasoning that its excessive actuality made the genre ineligible to be recognized as genuine art. Initially, all visual experience was influenced by painting and its age-old canons. In this regard, the unique capacity of a photograph to reflect reality was not only ignored, but also viewed as a kind of atavism that pushed it into the background in terms of reality interpretation. 


However, the documentary nature of photography essentially represents a ’designer’ element interfaced with human factor (1). Uzbekistan has its own successfully developing photographic traditions manifested mainly in the works of the older and middle generation of photography artists, including masters such as A. Gubenko, S. Spiridonov, Viktor Vyatkin, Viktor An, A. Korovin, F. Kurbanov and others. Their art is characterized by focus on the ’ethnographic’ theme, that is, interest in traditional forms and lifestyle, in vivid ’portrait’ characters, in people's historical and cultural environment. Hence come certain noncontinuity, contemplation, and the lack of inner dynamics, which can be explained by the reflection of current reality. Nevertheless, these traditions do not exclude the ’originality’ factor, where each master's piece has its own distinct artistic language. 


As to contemporary photography in Uzbekistan, it should be noted that the younger generation of photographers in the city of Tashkent has been active
for less than ten years. Predominantly, they are shortterm photography course graduates, and in the situation the principle of quantity transforming into
quality appears fitting. Young authors unite in several Internet communities, collaborating closely, for example, with Fotodepart ament in St. Petersburg, and
engaging actively in international contests and projects. 


In modern photography, fashion photography is gaining popularity among young people, although professional advertising photography is only at the
initial stage so far. There is a demand for genre, or street photography. As for the art photography, it apparently evolves towards abstract and non-objective forms. The conceptual trend remains underrepresented for the lack of needed experience among young photographers who, while studying the work of old masters, aspire to find their own artistic expression. 


This results in a certain discord in contemporary photography studies, since the art of the same author may feature several trends and genres at once, so it can be difficult at times to draw a line between realism, fashion photography or conceptual photo. 


To a greater extent, realism is manifest in documentary photography, as well as in the work of the country's older generation masters such as A. Gubenko,
R. Sharipov, F. Kurbanov, and S. Spiridonov. The art of documental photographers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries reflects the changes that have taken place in the country and society in recent years. Thus, the photos by R. Sharipov presented on December 6-16, 2010 at the Tashkent House of Photography during the photo exhibition called "Uzbekistan, Our Motherland" marking the 18th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan clearly reflect the realistic trend, illustrating changes of the new time and offering a documentary source of the new history. The photographer's works cover the whole spectrum of historical and cultural traditions of our people, reflected in new realities. High-spirited and optimistic pictures of people of different ages and generations Sharipov presented at this exhibition are saturated with volume and light.


Since the end of the twentieth century, aerial photography has been a popular art photography genre, previously used mainly for military purposes. Engaged in this rather specific genre are renowned photographers such as S. Spiridonov, R. Shagaev, A. Korovin, and I. Sadikov, who take their shots from
hundreds of meters to tens of kilometers height with the help of an aerial camera mounted on an airplane, a helicopter, a dirigible or their unmanned analogues.

Worth noting is the fact that the first aerial photo was taken in 1858 over Paris by the French photographer and aeronaut Gaspard-Felix Tournachon, better known as Nadar. A harmonious synthesis of two different photography art aspects - truthful picture and author's expression - is characteristic of Viktor An's photos. The artfulness and documentary in the master's works allow the viewer to enjoy the photographic image of a beautiful moment captured in the surrounding world. The photographer remains true to his reporter's background, building on an event that acquires significance under the sight of his lens. An does nothing to construct the picture, and his works have nothing to do with staged photography; he always tries to build on real life situations, freezing that fleeting instant from the world around, which he then transforms into his own unique and original photographic language. 


Specificity of Viktor An's art is in exposing new facets of already popular themes. Turning to the history and traditions of the Uzbek people in his series"The Roads of Maverannahr" and "Sacrifice", the photographer presents them in a new key. Thus, his pictures from the "The Roads of Maverannahr" series
contain a documentary basis and the author's original artistic approach to the chosen theme. Here the photographer abandons the unnaturally built aesthetics of reality and portrays ordinary people's life and destiny unadorned, without phony joviality. 


Photographing dirty-faced children against the background of old adobe houses or in the open field, the author accentuates his characters' personality, their
spiritual state. Photos from the "The Roads of Maverannahr" series stand out for their extremely expressive frankness of the narrative. The work of Viktor Vyatkin, member of the Artists Union of Uzbekistan, is largely consonant with that of Viktor An. Both photographers explore traditions and history, their pictures presenting people's life in its essence. Photographs by Vyatkin, as those by An, are exposed to the viewer, and filled with profound
meaning and drama. Consequently, both seasoned photographers decided to bring their creative aspirations together in the context of a photo exhibition
called "Face. Time" held on December 15, 2015 in the Tashkent House of Photography. The joint photoproject and metaphor presented the works of the two
masters created with an analogue camera with a film frame size of 10 x 12 cm in black and white, which allowed producing photographic prints 60 x 90 cm
without distortion. 

Shavkat Baltaev, photo artist from Bukhara, dedicated his entire life to the "craft of photography art". The primary object of his photographs is a human
being as a many-sided personality that has been understudied. Baltaev's pictures are profoundly psychoanalytic and philosophical. The master's photos
from the "Central Asian Gypsies" and "Bukhara Jews" series thoroughly expose the characters of people living in Uzbekistan, assimilated with the local population. In these series the photographer pays specific attention to the old cities, first of all to the phenomenally polyethnic and multicultural Bukhara.
Shavkat Baltaev has engaged in photography since 1979- In 1985 in Bukhara Baltaev set up a folk film studio "Sitora", and in 2003 opened the Bukhara
Creative Photography Development Center. Baltaev's works were exhibited not only in Uzbekistan, but also in Germany, Russia, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Japan and the United States. The photographer participates in numerous photography-related projects and contests held in different countries. 

Ravshania Azule, a new generation photographer, sets an example of appropriately mixed genres and trends. Ravshania is engaged in staged photography,
her works often featuring genre; these, however, are no ordinary fashion photos or amusing situations played out in front of the camera. Every picture shows extraordinary complexity in term of components. Hovering objects and airy images, as if in defiance of the laws of physics, appear at ease and confident in her pictures. Ravshania's art is surrealism and allegories that represent our dreams, feelings and emotions. Ordinary daily life objects, when photographed by Ravshania, harbor a hidden meaning, complementing lead characier images.


This symbolism relates her works to the conceptual photography, although these are not directly such. Ravshania Azule always uses natural light, and levitation is one of her favorite themes. The making of these photographs is the embodiment of creative process. All actions, from frame planning to its processing after shooting, require serene and methodical creative approach, where everything depends on the author's imagination. In recent years, interest in photography art has increased significantly, with greater number of exhibitions held both locally and regionally. The House of Photography operating in Tashkent facilitates sharing of experience among photographers, helps to promote and further refine the art of photography.


Photo-biennale shows regularly held in Tashkent have acquired international status. The Tashkent House of Photography has joined the most prestigious
photographers' organization in the world today - FUdUration Internationale de Г Art Photographique (FIAP). Studying the history of the global and local art
of photography, its contemporary trends and specificities provides an opportunity of acknowledging the true value of a photograph as a work of art.



1. Тейлор Б. ART TODAY. Актуальное искусство 1970- 2005. М., 2006. 

2. Щетина Н. Сборник статей. Фото: имитация реальности или искусство. Ташкент, 2008.

3. Бажак К. История фотографии, возникновение изображения. М.: ACT 2006.

4. Вартанов А., Луговьер Д. Учись фотографировать. М.,1988.

5. Клементс Д. Цифровая черно-белая фотография. Практическое руководство. М., Изд-во «Ниола 21 век», 2005 

6. Кузиев Т. Антология. 125 лет узбекской фотографии. Т. II, 1941 -1990. Ташкент, 2006.




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  • “Талабалар фестивали” доирасида бўлиб ўтган тадбирлар бўйича

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