Dappled Things: Pinkhassov on Instagram

2ee24056004711e282b422000a1e9572_7-383x383Teju Cole in New Inquiry:

We are not mayflies. We have known afternoons, and we live day after day for a great many days. This long experience of how days turn—how afternoon becomes late afternoon and late afternoon becomes night—informs any photographic work we do with natural light. The time of day at which the light is at its most glorious photographers call the golden hour: you’ve seen them toting cameras on street corners and in abandoned lots, coming at 5.30 pm or 6.30 or later, depending on the latitude and time of year. They wait for a certain intensity of shadow, for the yellow sunlight to spill just so, before it dies away into the night. But Gueorgui Pinkhassov (Russian, b. 1952, based in Paris) has done something more than wait: he has detected the golden hour in unexpected hours. A low and fractured light shimmers across his ouevre. A fluency in the language of the light at rest in all things, at rest and invisible to most eyes.

Pinkhassov’s work has come to the world in the usual way: photojournalism, print magazines, exhibitions, a book (Sightwalk, about Tokyo), and awards. He is a member of Magnum. On his art he is elusive and insightful: “The power of our Muse lies in her meaninglessness. Even the style can turn one into a slave if one does not run away from it, and then one is doomed to repeat oneself.” Thus: he changes. New approaches, new subjects, new equipment; but always rescuing the small light in things.

The work approaches abstraction. There are Soviet precedents: the spiritual energy of Tarkovsky, for whose filmStalker he shot stills in 1979; the color of Savelev, intense and pained (Goethe: “colors are the deeds and sufferings of light”); the deranged perspective of Rodchenko. Walker Evans and Friedlander too, probably, in the deadpan patterning, and Leiter, in the playing off of painterly color against shallow depths of field. But he wouldn’t be interesting if he weren’t his own man; he is, and he is. And now, in addition to his “serious” work, he is posting photos on Instagram. Instagram? I hesitate.