Boycotting The Cheese: Windows Into The Self

Luis Martín Bogdanovich doesn’t like to smile in front of the camera—he boycotts saying “cheese!” Prior to meeting up with the Peruvian artist on his recent visit to Berlin, there wasn’t a single image I encountered where he cracked a smile—something I later came to understand as a sign of sincerity rather than seriousness. I mean, there is a certain insincerity about smiling in front of cameras, isn’t there? The way you might find yourself enthralled in a serious conversation right before a camera comes out and one is queued to appear joyful, posing for the moment. For Bogdanovich, an architectural restorer and art historian, a camera, more than being something to smile into, is one of the tools on his belt that brings him the greatest joy and fulfillment. It would take a walk on Ebertstraße (towards Brandenburger Tor) and a talk about the space photography occupies in his life, to better understand the nature – and depth – of this intriguing artist.

The Walls Of An Artist

Soon after meeting Bogdanovich, I was struck by his character and presence: stoic, well groomed and quipped with a distinctly deep voice that he uses to measure out his words and tell you exactly what he means. The more he spoke, the more I realized the multistory personality he possessed; an artist layered with a historical conscience of both his personal architecture and the surrounding environment growing up in Lima. Environment which he is now directly involved with as an architectural restorer of cultural patrimony. 

From the diptych "Casa de Pizarro," (house of Pizarro) from the series "Reflejo" (reflection). Photo courtesy of Luis Martín Bogdanovich

Artparasites: I find you mirrored in the photos that you take of architectural spaces. To what extent are your photographs selfies (self-portraits)? I ask because of your character: stoic, proud, possessing a rigid awareness of your self, yet often tickling the past.

Luis Martín Bogdanovich: This question seems a bit contrived and problematic…I think my work, to the extent that it is mine, is a reflection of my mind; a graphic verbalization of my ideas, a search to rescue and reclaim the past, revealing the forgotten; what time and neglect have obscured, defaced or destroyed to the point where it is no longer clear. 

"Nostalgia," from the Lima series. Photo courtesy of Luis Martín Bogdanovich

APs: I still have yet to find an artist that doesn't lack something — that thing which his/her art fulfills; a certain void or distance, whether geographical, of time, experience or circumstance. What is that thing that life did not give you, which you find and fulfill in your creative process?

LMBMaybe I didn't get to know the Lima of balconies, porches and scented patios – that romantic city of which I've read in books or heard about at home. It is clear that I would have liked to know all of that. Sometimes I think I enjoy the amazement produced in me when locating a photograph of a destroyed monument, of something fallen that we can only know through memory. The photo gives me the tools to recreate that time, to bask in the destruction, to dream with the past and to denounce the blindness that prevents us from seeing the greatness of our history.

Photographer Lui Martín Bogdanovich photographed underneath Brandenburger Tor, Berlin. Photo: Chris Phillips

APs: You are an architect and restorer before anything else. Every system, I think, possesses a totality in which all of its pieces are relative. In the walls of your being, what bricks – or entire slabs – does photography occupy? How does it relate to your totality?

LMB: —But I am also an art historian. I believe that photography, as I've mentioned, is a tool; a speaker through which I can express what I think and with my discourse reach a plural audience, one which I perhaps cannot get to with University lecture (I'm a teacher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Perú). In such action, photography is like my other specialties; it’s an indivisible part of the edifice of my being. Both architecture and history, specialties with which I live, give me constant feedback—the necessary tools through the artistic expressions of the past and the ancient architecture through its historical value. How could one not value the past while being in St. Peter's Basilica, at Chambord or at Angkor Wat, the same as in the Cathedral of Cusco or at a mansion in Lima somewhere? Similarly, how could one not to be seduced by the architecture while having historical consciousness of all that has happened in these spaces? – Of how the buildings are the silent witnesses of history. In short, how could one not want to keep the material legacy of the past through architectural restoration?

APs: Fun question: what came first, the art or the artist?

LMB: First came God and created the world.

From the series "Hortus Conclusus." Photo courtesy of Luis Martín Bogdanovich

APs: If photography were a tool for restoration, what could it be able to restore?

LMB: All that my eyes have already forgotten, all that I never had the chance to know.

It was this final answer that broke the walls I had originally sensed around Bogdanovich's image. His photographs, coupled with both aesthethic and historical value, act as sublime windows in which the artist opens up so that he, for as brief as the moment may be, can once again walk out into a balcony or smell the scented patios of a romantic Lima hiding beneath layers of time. Luis Martin Bogdanovich may not smile in front of the camera, but when you look at his photographs rest assured that he was smiling behind it.

Luis Martin Bogdanovich [Price range of works: 1,500 – 4,000 Dollars]

Article by Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra