Carnevale di Venezia August 15 - September 06, 2013
Interview with artist Arkady Lvov on his exhibition of photographs
Carnevale di Venezia
Tell us about your first impressions experiencing the Carnival in Venice.
I attended the Carnival for the first time in February of 1995 and found the entire city of Venice transported back into the 18th century with the myriad of magical Carnival characters all around me. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and ingenuity of the costumes, their richness and versatility, and by the wonderfully playful atmosphere of the Carnival.
What do you see in the mystery and fantasy of the Carnival characters?
I see a tradition deeply rooted in the classic European culture and history. I also see people of enormous creativity, enthusiasm and dedication who bring these characters to life. One can only marvel at the tremendous amount of work they are willing to do just for a few days of festivities.
What is your inspiration for selecting the photographs for this exhibition?
My objective in selecting this particular group of images from the thousands I took over the years was to create a series of individual portraits of Carnival characters, and to leave out almost entirely (at least for now) the depictions of the Carnival daily life. The preference was given to my subjects that are in the quieter, introspective state, similar to those found in the old masters’ portrait paintings and early photographs, which has always been my inspiration.
Your renowned career as a master platinum printer gravitates you to seeing photographs in tones of black and white, what draws you to creating these portraits produced in bright full colors and textures? And the reason in reproducing these images in a large format?
It’s true – both, the platinum prints that I handcraft for my clients and my personal work are all black & white, and it would be very tempting to turn to the black & white once more, since it immediately makes your work look more artistic. But for this project how could I possibly omit all the glorious colors of Carnival!
I don’t necessarily see these works as large format – definitely not by today’s contemporary art standards. I wouldn’t print them any size smaller. They should be created in this size in order to bring out the intricacy and sophistication of the costumes and to give a strong sense of presence.
Can you explain why the use of digital vs. film for these prints?
When it comes to aesthetic matters, it is irrelevant and makes no difference whether I’m using film or digital camera. Generally speaking, the camera is just another tool, nothing more. If I were living in the 18th century, I would have had no choice but to use paint and brush like Pietro Longhi or Francesco Guardi who portrayed on canvas the Venetian life and the Carnival as vividly as any camera can do now.
When photographing the characters, it appears you catch the expression of the mask and costume without anyone posing? Is this true for all the photographs or something else?
Ideally, I like to work within a situation where I’m in full control and can arrange the subjects in accordance to my vision and engage them in a way which will bring out their full essence. However, with the fluid movement and spirited activity of the Carnival, obviously this is impossible to stage. So, I wait until the “object of my attention” is in the physical and emotional state I’m looking for.
These beautiful photographs illustrate the ambience of the Venetian cultural tradition since the 12th century. Do you see your images as capturing this fleeting moment of time each year?
What I cherish most about the Venetian Carnival is the faithfulness to its legacy. I don’t want it to ever change. It is an art of a different time, and I savor its baroque splendor. By capturing these moments in my photographs, I’m trying to immortalize these “keepers of the flame” who continue to celebrate this eight hundred year-old tradition.
Virginia Kinzey, Director