Yelena Yemchuk: Odessa, enchanted city

Yelena Yemchuk: Odessa, enchanted city
Yelena Yemchuk: Odessa, enchanted city

Crossing against oblivion

Odessa, it is first of all young girls and boys who attend the city’s Military Academy, aged 16 and 17. We discover them in uniform, but also in scenes where they reveal themselves in surprising ways, sometimes even stripping in front of the camera. Because if all these teenagers will soon go to fight at the front – in a context of invasion and annexation of Crimea by Russia – however, they grew up in a context, have a past and a daily life, which is not only made up of military exercises and discipline.

As we read through the book, we discover their particularly expressive faces, crazy and offbeat costumes, apartment interiors, ruins, dark and secret corners of the city. We witness very disparate encounters, Lynchian situations. We meet a couple with opposing silhouettes, a young man who bears a Harry Potter-style scar… Yelena Yemchuk’s insightful gaze reflects immense humor, which says somewhere: here, everything is possible. They look like characters from films from the 1970s, or even figures straight out of paintings – because Yelena Yemchuk, in addition to being a photographer, is a film director and painter. There is, in any case, in this city which inspires the artist so much, something which has resisted time, and therefore modernity. “The notion of time is different in Odessa. It’s a city out of time”she says in the preface toOdessa.

The closer we get to the halfway point of the work, the more the images are bathed in a pronounced chiaroscuro. During our crossing comes a moment when we only see the grayness of the city, the harshness of its facades, the solitude of its residents. But that was without counting on the visceral joie de vivre and optimism of the photographer, who closes the last part with the fantasy specific to Odessite youth. Yelena Yemchuk’s book ultimately turns out to be close to the storytelling genre, depicting an enchanted city that is nevertheless very real. “My work contains elements that work both in this reality and in a more dreamlike state, and it is always important to me that my work retains an element of humor”, expresses the artist. The city, located on the shores of the Black Sea, has today become an essential place transformed by the war. Yelena Yemchuk offers as a counterpoint a personal and delicate vision of it, rendered with soft colors and the impression of suspended time. To show another reality, one that is drowning in the violence of politics. And perhaps, thus saving Odessa from oblivion.

-

-

PREV Swedish city of Malmö hosts Eurovision for a high-risk week
NEXT Lyon: what is this monster crowd gathered in front of the LDLC Arena