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    Igor Samolet /be happy!

    23,5 x 17 cm

    104 Pages

    Numerous Color Images

    Thread Stitched Book in Slipcaser

    Design by Igor Samolet

    Publisher: Peperoni Books 2013 / ISBN: 978-3-94-1825-54-3

  2. "The Photobook: A History Volume III" by Parr/Badge

  3. Reviewed by Blake Andrews


    For artists of all stripes, adolescent rebellion is a rich vein of material. From Rebel Without a Cause to Easy Rider to Jackass to graffiti, punk, rap, or any number of creative pastimes, the tradition of restive youth connects, fascinates, and sustains. Subversion appeals. Or, put another way, subversion is easily subverted. This is probably because from the comfortable perspective of older age, such behavior seems counter-intuitive and self-destructive. We can't imagine it. Yet even as it repels us, it draws us in. It's the campfire of the arts. Gather around — but don't touch. 

    In photography the tradition is especially strong. Bruce Davidson, Larry Clark, Danny Lyon, Joe Szabo, Mary Ellen Mark, Nan Goldin, Jessica Dimmock, and Corrine Day have all documented "misspent" youths of one type or another. More recently Mike Brodie and Paul Kwiatkowski have added their own books. These are just a few, and they won't be the last. It's well worn territory.

    Igor Samolet's Be Happy! follows the grand tradition, showing a small cadre of Russian youth engaged in (check all rebel boxes that apply) drinking, sex, group sex, stripping, smoking, fighting, fireworks, squatting, and various indeterminate stunts involving water and/or fire. The usual young hijinks in other words, although practiced here with unusual fervor and sometimes by older participants. At some point, youthful indiscretions lose their patina of experimental freedom and sag into middle-aged nihilism. Maybe it's when children come along? A photo later in the book of a toddler caught amid domestic chaos explores this theme, but just for a moment before returning to revelry.

    What drives these characters? Who knows? All we have to go on is the photos. The book contains no explanatory text, and the people in the book seem content to remain tight-lipped, unless specific activities demand otherwise. I had to read the publisher's notes to realize that the entire series was shot during just two days of activity. Wow. They covered a lot of ground in two days. Some of them might even remember the events with the help of this book. What it all amounts to will probably depend on the reader. Young shooters might view these photos as fodder for the next two-day binge. The older set can read this on the lazy boy, clucking disapproval while vicariously relishing their yesteryears.

    Although the photos appear to be mostly candid, they exude a vibe of presentability, which leans almost, but not quite, into artifice. Most are cleanly seen and framed, not quite as casual as true snapshots. They wouldn't look out of place in a magazine article on troubled youth. I'm speculating that they were shot with a powerful digital camera of some type, one that can shoot in any light no matter how dim, and that stops down to get as much as possible in focus. The omniscient gestalt if you will, given an added boost here by participants unconcerned and open to being photographed.

    The book design deserves comment because it's a bit unusual. The pages are perfect bound but with no spine, just exposed glue and stitching. It won't be easy to identify shelved among other books. With no true cover or spine the body is a bit flimsy. Good thing it comes with cardboard slipcase for support. I'm not sure what the design reasoning was, but it gives the project an experimental and unusual feel. Subversive even.

    Reviewed by Hannes Wanderer


    ›be happy!‹ leads directly into the wild hustle and bustle of a group of young people in Russia. Nightly booze-cruises and parties in deserted demolition houses with unbridled alcohol and drug use, with sex, violence and pornography. The storm of youth rages within the clique going full blast.

    Igor´s unleashed lens is part of the action and there when the youngsters love, drink, fight and bandy and when surreal scenes unfold in the light of blazing fire under the night sky in all their complexity. It´s just a wild night.

    But Igor stays close to his protagonists even in bright daylight and thus reveals the physical and emotional wounds and injuries. What follows the exuberant celebration is not a regulated everyday life, but a permanent hangover with too many cigarettes, too much alcohol, too much posing and aimless sex, now with kitchen, kids and caboodle between dirty clothes, torn mattresses and boiled potatoes, flickering television and computer screens and washing machines. Until the night swallows the day and the next trip again ends in a coma.

    Due to the immediate directness of the photographs, the wise dramatic composition that leads us through two nights and a day, and the clever assembly of documentary and staged shots with cryptic patterns and signs the great agonizing questions shine through under the surface: the longing for truth, love, lust and ecstasy.

    Or simply the question about the future.

    Reviewed by Philipp Naderer


    Continuing with Igor Samolet's "Be Happy", which is for myself the most stunning book of the complete festival so far, follows young people in Russia and gives and small view into their living. I was thinking about Rimaldas Viksraitis' great work, which was exhibited together with Martin Parr two years ago, who was working in a much more involved way. I feel Igor's book has a more distanced view, but still very emotional and that's what I like so much about it. There is an ambivalence view on the clique, even if he was working very close to the people. My deep respect for this project and the fantastic narrative plot of the book.

    Reviewed by Josef Chladek


    There was some hype sorrounding the Rodchenko School for Photography's table at the ViennaPhotoBookFestival 2013. Igor's book took me by storm - a raw, anarchic and intensive shooting of a group of young people in Russia. You feel the hangovers, you're inside the room drinking with them, standing around the fire staring in the night, having sex in the kitchen, on the floor. We follow the group over two days - then a new day dawns, streets are cleaned, Igor(?) lying in a puddle - that's it, breathless at the end of a great book!

    Reviewed by Dan Abbe


    “Be Happy!” is another contribution to the growing field of photography projects that take off-the-grid communities—whether migratory (Mike Brodie), dystopian (Stacy Kranitz) or pastoral (Lucas Foglia)—as their subject. Perhaps the emergence of such projects should not come as such a surprise. Although much has made about the “saturation” of images today, photography is always interested in new material, and these communities are worlds for the camera to discover. In a sense, then, a project like “Be Happy!” positions the photographer as a kind of anthropologist, who will embed themselves in a group and come back with images to show us, the people on the “outside.” Clearly, though, the reality of producing this kind of project is far more complicated than that, and it would be a disservice (both to the photographer and the subjects) to look at them in this rather crude way.

    “Be Happy!” certainly does not present itself as a mere illustration of “City C,” the place where a rotating cast of people have gathered together to explore life’s various pleasures. This is not a scene of total debauchery, though: along with the sex and drugs, we see a rather cute photo of someone dumping a bucket of water on a couple— and indeed, getting soaked is a minor theme running through the book. Samolet often draws the viewer away from the group’s home base, showing more abstract images like a starry night sky, or the window dressing of a gown shop, complete with a stock photo of a smiling woman in the back. The book’s title points towards a kind of romanticism, and it is true that the photographs here could be read as an ode to being wild and free, but Samolet keeps things grounded: while one man writhes in ecstasy on a table as a man and a woman thrust their hands down his pants, another man stands over him—he is watching the scene, calmly eating a can of beans.

    Reviewed by Anastasia Bogomolova


    «Be happy!» — история, несомненно, уникальная для молодой российской фотографии. Выпускник Московской школы Родченко нынешнего года, первоначально Игорь Самолет самостоятельно опубликовал 50 экземпляров этой книжки, чтобы представить ее как дипломный проект на отчетной выставке студентов своей альма-матер. Практически сразу после показа в столице издание отправилось на ViennaPhotoBookFestival, где за пару дней было почти полностью раскуплено (несколько копий увез с собой Мартин Парр) и откуда попало на полки как минимум двух серьезных магазинов. Сам же автор получил в Вене предложение от Peperoni Books. Спустя всего четыре месяца привлекшая к себе внимание работа вышла в Европе уже не абы как, а тысячным тиражом и на днях взяла серебряный приз конкурса German Photobook Award 2014. Но сколь бы скорым ни казался успех «Be happy!», на съемку легшего в основу книги материала у фотографа, тем не менее, ушло около трех лет, проведенных в поездках по разным городам страны, включая родной Игорю Котлас в Архангельской области.

    В сущности, ту тему, за которую Самолет берется в своем проекте, сложно назвать новой. Про годы мучительного взросления, про осознание идентичности, про непростые поиски счастья пытаются то и дело понять и рассказать многие из современных отечественных авторов младшего поколения. Однако в большинстве случаев заявленная проблематика решается ими приблизительно в одном и том же ключе и стилистике: портреты, зачастую составляющие подобные серии, демонстрируют хрупкость, уязвимость, ранимость юности. «Be happy!» — исследование совсем иного толка. Оно более дерзкое, жесткое, вызывающее, пронзительное. На резкость его намекают уже выставленный на обозрение сшитый переплет, из которого наружу выбиваются ниточки, и угловатые буквы выведенного на обложке названия, небрежно сложенные из рваных кусочков коричневого скотча.

    На протяжении всего повествования Игорь постоянно меняет дистанцию по отношению к своим героям. Он то подходит к ним издалека, то приближается настолько, что уже видны кровеносные сосуды глазного яблока и пот на теле мечущейся в постели девушки, а затем резким движением направляет камеру в небо, извергающее красочные фейерверки.

    История Самолета сложена крайне плотно: фотографии в книге идут густым потоком, и даже периодически нарушающие его белоснежные страницы не способны перебить подобное впечатление, пресечь интенсивный визуальный ряд, который дает довольно четкое ощущение течения времени в рамках этого прямолинейного рассказа. Действие «Be happy!» начинается в сумерки, продвигается в глубокой ночи, озаряя лица молодых людей отблесками костра, а потом резко вторгается в день, вскоре тоже сменяемый разгульным вечером — еще более откровенным, провокационным, бесстыдным.

    При таковом концентрированном повествовании финал у издания удивительно простой и короткий, запечатленный всего в трех кадрах. На двух из них в свой первый утренний рейд отправляется поливальная машина, словно бы смывающая мощными водными струями события предыдущих суток, а сразу же после возникает тихий и медленный снимок одиноко лежащей в луже мужской фигуры. Вокруг только заборы да гаражи с угадывающейся на них надписью «Служба благоустройства». И серое небо без намека на недавние салюты. И грязь без примеси будоражащих эмоций. И кусок прикрытой снегом почвы, проглядывающий в прорезях остроконечной ограды. Неспешная эта кода говорит то ли о случившемся взрослении, то ли всего лишь о передышке перед новыми поисками. Впрочем, и хорошо, что концовка открытая. Значит, можно опять вернуться к началу и листать, листать.

  4. Reviewed by Dirk Leyman (Snoecks 2015)