Boris Mikhailov awarded Spectrum Photo Prize

New award for the 73-year-old Russian social documentary photographer
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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

1 / 24 Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

2 / 24 Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

3 / 24 Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, Superimposition (1960-1970)

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Boris Mikhailov, one of the most influential photographers from the former Soviet Union has been awarded the Spectrum Photo Prize 2012. The 73 year-old photographer joins Sophie Calle, Martha Rosler and Robert Adams who have previously won the prize which is awarded every three years by the Foundation of Lower Saxony and the Sprengel Museum, where Mikhailov will show his work in 2013.

Born in communist Ukraine, Mikhailov's career as a photographer began after he was forced to quit his job as an engineer when the KGB uncovered photographs of his wife naked. Much of his work focussed on everyday life throughout the Russian occupation. After The Soviet Union's collapse Mikhailov sought to uncover injustices people began facing as his hometown of Kharkov adjusted itself to the new capitalist culture.

 

Boris Mikhailov

Boris Mikhailov

 

“It is a disgraceful world, populated by some creatures that were once humans, but now these living beings are degraded, ghastly, appalling," Mikhailov said at the time. "This "fauna" is specific especially to the period of quasi-general diffidence, specific for most of the post-communist world.”

Taken throughout the 1960s and 70s in Soviet occupied Ukraine, Mikhailov's Superimposition series depicts an extraordinary double world of Soviet drudgery juxtaposed with sex and beauty. 

“I think that some people think these images look like they’ve been captured from a dream,” he told Phaidon. “It depends. Some have a contrary feeling. Some can be a picture of a beautiful mountain but when you match it with something else the landscape takes on a different sense – which can make it ugly. I suppose in that sense they are like a dream because they have a naivety to them. But, to me, they are more about beauty than reality.”

Overlaying colour slides Mikhailov creates fascinating 'sandwiches' depicting glamourous women, surreal urban landscapes and strange scenes of everyday life. “I used to think that my images were very indicative of the era they were taken in, but looking back I think they were more indicative of where my brain was at,” he recalls. “I have a sandwich of two women in their swimming costumes which I overlaid with a diary entry from an ex-girlfriend. In it she names how many men she has slept with. I think I was number 15. There were many after me. Society can make the analysis about that, I just want to create a talking point.”


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