Boris Mikhailov: Throw Out Your Photoshop

Boris Mikhailov, Ukrainian born artist who divides his time and artistic endeavors between Berlin and his hometown Kharkov, is in full photographic force at the Berlinische Galerie. When starting out under the confines of the USSR, photography was not considered a form of art – this did not stop Mikhailov from experimenting with the medium of photography anyway. This exhibit, which spans the years of 1968-2003, appeals to both photography lovers and history buffs alike with its conceptual photography that captures historical phenomena through both a public and private lens.

Not the place for glam photography
Mikhailov’s photography is exactly the opposite of the Arnold Newman “Masterclass” exhibit we covered last week. No famous people posing or sharp portraits are to be found here. Instead, imagine raw, candid photographs with the most average people as models. Expect lots and lots of skin – whether slightly overweight women in bathing suits or seemingly inebriated people lifting up their shirts and exposing their chests. These are definitely not the kind of fine or staged photographs that you usually find in galleries around Berlin, and this is what makes Mikhailov’s photography not only interesting, but absolutely real.
Boris Mikhailov
“Hold on tight!” Boris Mikhailov – Untitled from the Black Series Archive, 1968-1979 – Courtesy of Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin – Copyright Boris Mikhailov
What a trip…
A couple laughing and dancing in very bright 70s clothing; people huddled in the snow smoking and drinking beer; a man that looks strikingly like beat poet Allen Ginsberg looking stoned and frozen lying in the snow. The more candid photographic documentation of everyday life in the Ukraine and even in Berlin really makes you feel like you are actually there seeing the people yourself. These everyday, common acts are nonetheless absolutely intriguing through Mikhailov’s curious lens. Effectively sparking the imagination of myself and others visiting the exhibit, I found myself constantly making up a context and story behind each picture I encountered… or even recognizing faces as if I had actually seen these people walking the streets of Berlin before.  
In his more experimental Superimposition Series, Mikhailov superimposes various images to create a trippy and very 60s-70s feel. The superimposed photographs with their translucent layers effectively captures the light, serene, and sometimes drug-induced hallucinations that one associates with that time-period. Some of the people around me were mesmerized by these images in particular, as if they were indeed having a flashback of their own.
Who needs photoshop?
Mikhailov even manually colored some of the photos himself, which allowed him to play with different tones and hues to accentuate certain phenomena in reality. Mikhailov’s intention is not to significantly edit or reconstruct the photograph as is frequently done in our times with excessive use of photoshop – instead he chooses to manipulate and highlight certain aspects, inviting the viewer to perceive the photograph through a new angle.
Mikhailov’s exhibit is truly original and inspiring… walking back out into the overcast and gray Berlin, I couldn’t help but to continue to see through Mikhailov’s playful and illuminated lens as an aurora of sunlight found its way through the layer of clouds. 
Berlinische Galerie  Boris Mikhailov – “Time is out of joint. Photography 1966–2011″ February 24th – May 28th 2012 Wed-Mon: 10am – 6pm