Cataloging Desire and a Reluctant But Necessary Eulogy in ‘Russian Interiors’

To say these images are erotic would be a mistake; they are a more like a self-enforced catalogue of sexualized ego pandering.

 

By Brad Feurehelm, ASX, December 2014

Andy Rocchelli’s “Russian Interiors” is first and foremost a beautifully realized book by Cesura Publishing. The tactile quality of the raised floral cover and the lifted font make the book a very desirable object to own. The concept of the publication is simple. Rocchelli was living in Moscow as a documentary photographer in the early part of this decade and made interior studies of single women in their homes for a small fee. Presumably, the images were then used on dating sites. This is a language of photography many of us are now familiar with and the images, though not static, look very much in order of this functionality.

The photographs themselves do pulse and seethe with a registered pathos of desire. For the most part, the women look deadpan into the camera with an allure, as is the point of such endeavors. There isn’t much need to over-analyze the position of the photographer to the subject in this exercise, as it was a paid for service and the sexualized aspect of each image is part of the performance value that the subject herself paid for. There is a strict economy of image and functionality of photography at work within the book. To say these images are erotic would be a mistake; they are a more like a self-enforced catalogue of sexualized ego pandering. All of the subjects are photographed in very prosaically muted Russian interiors. The palette of which, beckons towards an Eastern Eggleston or possibly a young Juergen Teller.

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I reference the death of the photographer not because I think it is important to eulogize his work within this catalogue of Russian women, but rather because there is something of a despair knowing this information…

 

In 2014, Rocchelli and a fellow journalist are killed documenting the Ukrainian revolution. The specifics of which are not clear, but that it was a death that resulted from Rocchelli’s interest in documenting the humanitarian struggle that was occurring. I reference the death of the photographer not because I think it is important to eulogize his work within this catalogue of Russian women, but rather because there is something of a despair knowing this information when I go back through Russian Interiors. It makes me reflect on what photography and the passing of time delivers upon my psyche. I am now staring back at a catalogue of death and the eulogy of the photographer and the women inside become distant ghosts in my mind. There is loss here and I cannot escape the notion of my own mortality when I look at the images. I want desperately to be aroused, to forget these graven and petite epitaphs for that of being able to look simply at a project. With photography, I am always projecting my own death on the face of others, on their lives, and on the very medium itself. Here there is no life, only the lengthening and shortening of moments and their miasmic pulchritude and a dissonance of hauntological insights. It is a familiar concept to walk astride the lines of Eros and Thanatos, but it is a less casual event when the images within a body of work reach out from behind the veil to capture my discomfort. There is a feeling that I am witnessing the last image in a dying man’s retina and that in being given this image to examine, it only reflects the worldwide business of death within the economy of images where everything is transient and without fixity. It simply stares back and demands I make peace with inevitability and perhaps that is the power of context and eulogy within a book like Russian Interiors and the short life of Mr. Rocchelli.

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Russian Interiors.
By Andy Rocchelli.
Cesura Publish, Pianello Val Tidone, Italy, 2014. 125 pp., 70 color offset illustrations, printed in Italy by Grafiche Antiga., 6¼x8½”.

 

(All rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feurehelm, Images @ and courtesy of Cesura.)

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