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Valentin Kozlov

Leningrad 1960

„Little Boy"

Fragment of "At the Moika°

View picture „At the Moika Embankment" >>

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A selection of photographs from „Leningrad 1960 - People and Places"
will be released in Iris-Print on Aquarelle Arches paper.

Valentin Kozlov was born in 1933. He was quite young when he married Galina Egorova, and in 1955 his son Evgenij was born. This might have been one of the reasons why, his modest income notwithstanding, he aquired a camera , a F-E-D-2, the typical camera of an amateur photographer. He also bought an enlarger and other dark room equipment. From time to time he printed the pictures in a corner of the small room the family shared in a communal appartment, and shared the results of his hobby with his friends an relatives. (for more pictures of Valentin Kozlov

Valentin Kozlov

His estate contains a great number of black and white negative films, mainly from 1959 to 1961. The films are not dated; however the instructions on the cardboard boxes as well as the age of the persons in the photos allow a rather exact dating. There are approximately 1500 pictures altogether, although we are not sure whether others have been lost.

The pictures can be roughly divived into two categories: scenes from family life on the one hand, atmospheric views of Leningrad and the Russian village of Syntsowa (Kostroma) on the other. This is merely a formal distinction of the pictures and has no relevance to the artistic approach of Valentin Kozlov. His talent to arrange a composition is evident throughout his work, and his photos have more than a merely documentary interest, as is often the case with amateur photographers.

Take for instance the picture of his 5-year old son Evgenij dressed in a sailor suit standing at the bank of the River Neva. It is unimportant whether one puts this picture into the category of family scenes or views of the town. Rather what distinguishes it is how the photographer focuses on the figure moving diagonally in the middle ground, thus creating a powerful interaction between foreground and background. In this way the quietness and wideness of the city receives a dynamic feature with an almost palpable quality: a small person, effectively counterbalancing the contemplative character of the picture.

Valentin Kozlov

We decided to choose for this small exhibition a very special series which we called "People and Places": a film which, after having been developed and fixed, underwent a further chemical process. Whether this process was produced by deliberate manipulation or just by accident is hard to say. As a result, wherever there are strong contrasts between light and dark areas, the emulsion of the coated side of the negative receded into the lighter areas, although not exactly parallel to the light-dark contrasts, but in curves. This effect can be well noticed on the picture on top of the page.

As a matter of fact, this very effect can be intensified by printing the black and white negatives on colour paper. Different densities of the emulsion take different shades of colour, and the printed pictures show fascinating combinations of colours, according to the setting of the filters. Further defects on the negatives and the choice of a photo paper tinted yellow give the prints an exceptional, picturesque-impressionist aura. We would like to stress that all effects were produced purely by photographic proccesses from negative to print and were not computer-generated.

Valentin Kozlov did not live to see the new prints of his pictures. He died in 1980 of a serious desease. During his lifetime he only printed a small part of his photos, mainly those he expected to be of interest to his family and friends. Why there was an intense period between 1959 and 1961, and why few films exist of later years we ignore. We can only assume that his strenuous work in a factory and possibly the lack of support by people close to him made him lose enthusiasm.

Yet his artistic talent had great influence on the development of his son. Not only through the large number of visits to the museums of Leningrad, in the first place the Hermitage, but more than anything else because of his sensibility for composition and harmony. And also in a very concrete way: the possession of the F-E-D-2 and the photo laboratory enabled Evgenij Kozlov to use photography as means of artistic expression. More at „Leningrad 80es".

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