For nearly 30 years, Alexey Titarenko has been photographing cities that are close to his heart, making images that attempt to describe the feeling of a place as much as they record the way it looks. A new exhibition of his work, “Alexey Titarenko: The City is a Novel,” is on view at Nailya Alexander Gallery in New York City until May 20. Over the course of his career, Titarenko has focused on four cities, St. Petersburg, where he was born (when it was called Leningrad), and New York City, where he has lived for close to a decade, as well as two places beloved by photographers, Venice and Havana. The show is a retrospective, collecting his rarely exhibited photomontages from a series called “Nomenclature of Signs,” which was included in an exhibition of Soviet photography that toured the U.S. in 1989, and images from “City of Shadows,” begun during the collapse of the U.S.S.R.
Working with medium format black and white film, Titarenko often makes long exposures that blur the people who pass through his frame while freezing the architecture around them. In the darkroom, he extensively works and reworks his prints, bleaching, toning and solarizing the images until they reflect the particular quality he is after. As Titarenko says in a statement, “Universal emotions…constitute the main themes of my photographs, to the extent of transforming the most documentary among them into elements of a novel—not reportage, but a novel, whose central theme is the human soul.”