The Light of Russian Faith

Margarita Kabanova

June 2011

About the exhibition

Margarita defines her main artistic credo as ‘conceptual’ photography – she uses photojournalism and reporting genre to let a viewer ‘see’ emotion through a focussed use of colour, light and graphics.

About the exhibition

The idea of creating an exhibition about Russia was conceived accidentally. Through a chance visit to the prominent Catholic Seminary at Besançon, I was profoundly moved by seeing the faithful there: they had dedicated their life to the Church and for them one final journey remained – the daily walk from their bedroom to the refectory and back. This was taken via a long hall, which also doubled an exhibition space.

From this initial observation an idea emerged… Why not show these people, a fresh view of the outside world? I could show them the Russia which I know and love. I could show them the Russian Church, which would interest them and whose beauty is world renowned. Of course the grand structures and the golden domes are well documented, but I also wanted to provide a glimpse of the many ordinary people who frequent the Church and make it a part of their daily lives. So my journey began.

It began with a visit to Moscow and wandering through the many churches there. As I am a secular person, this was an unknown world to me which until recently had been closed off, nearly forgotten and shrouded from view. Then suddenly, and with great force, the Church was rediscovered and rose from the ashes. How did this come about and how was it embodied? What did this mean for ordinary Russians? These questions fascinated me and I started to observe, document and photograph the spaces and the people within them.

It seemed to me that here, in this new Church, in the faces of faithful - emotions, hopes and fears were private and yet visible to all. Here, people did not hide their tears, nor their sorrow, nor their joy. The masks were removed and the actors left the stage. What remained were people real to themselves and equal in the eyes of their faith. These contemplations about the individual and particularly about the Russian individual, about the soul and the meaning of it, brought me again to the realisation that we are all so different and yet the same. This idea is at the centre of my work.

And here is the result… A portrait, a mis-en-scene, an unexpected gesture, a chance encounter, a hand, a face… I have tried to create a collage of visions which reflect the colours and the compositions of the world I discovered, as much as the experience and the emotion of it. Here, the faces of the people intertwine with those of the icons, the architecture frames human action. The structure of the light, which is of central importance in every work and the show as a whole, illuminates the details of an unfolding human story. This light - is both functional and structural; both objective and symbolic; it is playful and unnerving; it both reveals and hides; but ultimately it is there, throughout.


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