From the series "The Wedding"

2005-2006, chromogenic print25 x 17 cm, edition of 5

The series "The Wedding" presents a simulated wedding between two homeless people often naked and in sexual poses, set amongst their own surroundings. Mikhailov’s photographs, often presented in wry, even humorous situations, only add to the absurdity of this tragic life. The onlooker experiences feelings of empathy and disgust as they guiltily absorb the content of these engaging yet horrifying pictures, peering into an unknown world of madness, destitution, longing and death in an un-redemptive portrait of outcast humanity.

Anatoly Kryvolap

About the artist

Boris Mikhailov (b. 1938) was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and came to prominence in the 1990s. His work often focuses on the politics of everyday life during the Soviet era and its aftermath. The artist explores the position of an individual within the sphere of a public ideology, whether communism or capitalism.

A technical engineer by training, he was introduced to the camera in his late 20s, when he was officially requested to make an educational film about the factory where he worked. It was not long after this that the KGB found some nude photographs that Mikhailov had taken of his wife and, as such images were banned, he was immediately fired. And that is the moment he decided to devote himself to photography.

He could fairly be described as the sparkiest and most unpredictable photographer to have emerged from Eastern Europe during the Communist era. In the 1960s and 1970s, working in Kharkiv outside official Soviet structures, he devised a new photographic manner that availed itself of cheapness and low finish to discreetly disparage the regime. Later, in independent Ukraine, he pictured the chaos of economic liberalization in visceral images that pushed the ethical complications of social documentary to the breaking point. His art is mordant, but it is, also, some of the most profound art made anywhere in Europe in the past 60 years.

“In my work, I identify with the period and the process our country is going through.” – Boris Mikhailov

In recent years, he has exhibited at the M.E.P., Paris, Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Kunsthalle, Zurich, Portikus, Frankfurt, the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, and many more.