'Kazan in February': how a German photographer sees the city and Kazan residents

The Artur Bauer exhibition has opened in the Gallery of Modern Art in Kazan

'Kazan in February': how a German photographer sees the city and Kazan residents
Photo: Maksim Platonov

On November 3, the exhibition of German photographer Arthur Bauer “Kazan in February” opened in the Gallery of Modern Art of the State Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Tatarstan. He took street photos in February 2018 and 2020, travelling independently around the city and its surroundings. How the foreign guest saw Kazan and Kazan residents, what and when his large-scale Russian project will be completed — read in the reportage of Realnoe Vremya.

“I wanted to return to my Russian roots”

The “Kazan in February” exhibition is quite small, although Arthur Bauer took a lot of photos. In fact, the State Museum of Fine Arts of Tatarstan was ready to provide large areas to the photographer, but so far the exposition occupies one hall of the first floor of the gallery. Only 16 works are exhibited there, but a catalogue was released specially for the exhibition.

Arthur Bauer's interest in Russia is not accidental. He was born in Almaty in 1993, but when he was 7 years old, their family left Kazakhstan to move to Germany. As he himself admitted, his name was originally Artem Kalubaev, but according to his passport, he is now Bauer. “I probably just wanted to go back to my roots, I started learning Russian," he admits.

“Both the city and the people did not disappoint me, on the contrary, I wandered here admiringly for a whole month, and after 2 years I decided to repeat my experience, and again in February," said Arthur Bauer

Arthur Bauer became seriously interested in photography in 2008, after visiting a photo exhibition. He sold his car, bought a small camera and went first to Hungary, then to Romania, Bulgaria...

“The photos I saw engaged me with humanism, feeling, composition. I also realised that I really love and want to travel. For example, with a backpack on my shoulders and a camera in my hands, I went on a journey across Europe. Then, in 2013, together with an Italian friend who studied Russian, we came to Moscow. It so happened that it was winter, and at some point we realised that we were just tired of the capital and decided to leave. There was no even a question where. We have heard a lot about Kazan as a beautiful city, the third capital of Russia. Since we had already been in St. Petersburg, we moved to Tatarstan. Both the city and the people did not disappoint me, on the contrary, I wandered here admiringly for a whole month, and after 2 years I decided to repeat my experience, and again in February," said Arthur Bauer to Realnoe Vremya.

There are people in the photos of the photographer. Of different ages and nationalities

Two-metre snowdrifts and the king of roads — the bus

There are people in the photos of the photographer. Of different ages and nationalities Seeing how Kazan, where you have lived all your life, appeared before the guest, a genuine sense of pride appears. For people, first of all. As the photographer says, in the morning after breakfast and Russian language classes, he went on an independent tour around the city, walked 15-20 kilometres with a camera: at first, he walked without purpose, then he began to understand geography. He shot in museums, the Kul Sharif mosque, churches, transport. Faces are the main mystery for the photographer. Here is a girl sitting at the window with a sad, thoughtful look, and an immense grandmother reading a newspaper, and a shoe stall worker missing his homeland. Hands — that's another expressive means — he saw the conductor's overworked hands sorting through tickets, an elegant female hand holding a fashionable iPhone — all different and all are united.

“I was probably struck by public transport in Kazan. It seemed to me that the bus is the main means of public transportation, and it is interesting that people travel in it with different incomes. In one car one can see both very poor and quite wealthy citizens. We mostly use trams in Mannheim, and there is no metro at all in the small town. Another, perhaps, can be called two-metre snowdrifts — such a full-fledged winter for me, as a European resident, is a real exotic. It's worth to see!” says Arthur Bauer.

“Such a full-fledged winter for me, as a European resident, is a real exotic," says Arthur Bauer

People in frames

However, there were also incidents with the photo hunter. One day I wandered to the outskirts of the city, to a private sector. I started taking photos. He suddenly found frowning, wary faces around him, and a young guy approached him to find out the purpose of photographing. Arthur explained who he was and where he came from, to which he received advice: “You should go from here while you're safe.” However, according to the guest, this was an exception. People were happy to pose and just allowed to take photos, or they didn't have to explain anything at all.

“When I saw the photos, I immediately felt a certain cinematic qualities in them. Such a cinematic technique is people in frames: I mean the window of the stall, the window, the usher in the window of the theatre box office. As if he made a documentary about us. One more thing struck me — why do all the pictures seem so strange at first glance? Only then there came the guess — there is no one in masks! After all, February 2020 is the last period when we did not even imagine that soon everyone would cover their faces… Actually, this fact gave the name to the exhibition — February as a document, as the last frontier before the pandemic," art critic Dina Akhmetova shares her impressions.”

“When I saw the photos, I immediately felt a certain cinematography in them," art critic Dina Akhmetova shares her impressions

“The author did not lie in any work”

By the way, the pandemic in Germany also played a cruel joke on the photographer. His first solo exhibition — with Kazan works — opened during the lockdown, and it stood without visitors. So now the project has taken on a new life in Russia and, according to the author himself, it will be constantly replenished.

“I plan to spend one month a year in Russia, so in 10 years, I think I will complete the project. I probably won't be coming back to Kazan — I have plans to go to Yekaterinburg next year. Let it be colder there, but I will go there in the summer, as I already did this year — I shot on Lake Baikal and in Irkutsk," Bauer says.

So now the project has taken on a new life in Russia and, according to the author himself, it will be constantly replenished

Kazan photographers were also present at the opening of the exhibition. Not only for work — many people were interested in seeing their hometown through the eyes of a foreigner. It was also interesting to evaluate the professionalism of the young colleague.

“I see here the work of the future great master. There is a whole philosophy hidden in seemingly random frames. The most important thing is the frank look of the artist, without embellishment, sincere. This is one of the most honest sample of our reality, the author did not lie in any work. We are what we are, and I am pleased that the residents of Kazan in his works appear smart and thoughtful, friendly and with bright characters. Not only a collection of images is collected here, but the character of the city," Ramil Gali, the chairman of the Union of Photographers of Tatarstan, shared his opinion.

Creative meetings with Arthur Bauer will be held on November 4 and 12 in the Gallery of Modern Art.

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Anna Tarletskaya. Photo: Maksim Platonov
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