Undine Audijane, Lundis Zamerovskis, 2005
from the series: "On the other side of the river"
gelatin silver print on baryta paper
35 x 33,5 cm
Courtesy of Baukunst Galerie, Cologne
The Other Side of the River
21 June - 30 August, 2012
Introduction - Dr. Christiane Kuhlmann, art historian and author, Essen
Opening on Wednesday 20 June, Baukunst Galerie will present “the other side of the river”, another exhibition in collaboration with the renowned Latvian photographer Inta Ruka (born in Riga in 1958). Riga’s inhabitants form the focal point for her photographic work, for they, like the artist herself, live “on the other side of the river”.
For three decades now, Inta Ruka has been producing various series in which she portrays with characteristic empathy the people from rural and urban areas alike. To this end, she directs her gaze exclusively towards her fellow countrymen. She works with a 1937 6x6cm Rolleiflex aided by a tripod, but foregoes the use of artificial lighting.
The photographer meets her subjects outside their homes either at random or during arranged meetings, on the street, in courtyards or gardens. As a result, increasing familiarity triggers changes in the environment, in which the portrait is taken. Her subjects’ living conditions often play a decisive role in Inta Ruka’s photographs and simultaneously allow for an assessment of their personal relationship. Notwithstanding this aspect, the artist tends to opt for full-length portraits, semi-long shots, or close-ups. And so, the artist creates highly atmospheric silver-gelatine prints in 35 x 33 cm. For the most part, Ruka positions her subjects in a similar way to the Old Masters, namely at the centre of the frame. Despite their calm pose, sitting or standing, it still seems like a conversation had been taking place at the moment the photograph was shot. The beholder’s mistaken gaze, in combination with Inta Ruka’s personal dairy entries, which she has written on the walls beneath the photos in the exhibition, not only afford insights into the subject’s external surroundings but into their inner world too. Ruka’s sensitive, time-consuming, yet calm working process allows the masterful artist make staged photos appear completely spontaneous. This way she creates photographic portraits of the homeless and alcoholics, children, young people and families alike. She never presents images of hardship or poverty with the direct gaze employed by someone like Boris Mikhailov. Inta Ruka’s photographs are always characterized by their humanistic and respectful attitude towards the individual, whose social status takes a backseat.
Back in 2000, Inta Ruka turned her attention towards inhabitants of the capital city, resulting in the “People I happened to meet” series. There, she approached people on the street at random, and then asked if she could photograph them. By way of contrast to this series, “Amalias Street 5a” involved a longer period of engagement, whereby she visited inhabitants of one district in Riga that is under gradual reconstruction regularly over a period of several years. One summer she even became a member of the housing community.
In the current exhibition, Inta Ruka presents the beginning of her latest series “on the other side of the river”, which she has been working on since 2009. Here and there, selected works from the “Amailas Street 5a” and “Neighbours” also crop up in the conception. It becomes clear that she is gaining increasing proximity to the socio-cultural environment around her. She depicts those of Riga’s inhabitants who live “on the other side of the river”, far removed from the modernised, representative buildings and hustle and bustle of tourists in the capital city. The beholder becomes aware that social and economical development is much less advanced, the economic expectations of the citizens much further out of reach, than Riga’s touristic centre would have us believe. Owing to a lack of funds, modernisation work is moving forward at less than a snail’s pace; while significant improvements to living conditions have come to a standstill. Inta Ruka uses her black-and-white photography to create a contemporary document that captures the atmosphere and situation her fellow countrymen are experiencing during this period of transition from the declaration of independence from Russia (1990), to their joining the EU (2003) to the present day.
Inta Ruka is one of the best-known contemporary photographers from the Baltic States. Her photographs can be found in the stocks of several international collections and museums, e.g. the Photography Collection at Museum Folkwang in Essen, the Fotomuseum im Münchener Stadtmuseum, the Collection de la Banque privée Edmond Rothschild in Geneva and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. In 1999 she represented Latvia at the 48th Venice Biennale. Between 1991 and 1994, her works were showcased were featured in touring exhibitions that travelled through the USA, Canada and Europe. In 2006 and 2007, they were on display in the Photography Center Istanbul and the Barbican Art Gallery in London as part of the “In the Face of History: European Photographers in the 20th Century” exhibition. One year later, her portraits were exhibited alongside pieces by Diane Arbus, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, amongst others, in the “On the Human Being” exhibition in the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville. In 2008 and 2009, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga also dedicated major exhibitions to the artist.
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