10 Favorite Photographs by Vivian del Rio

For our new section “10 Favorite Photographs” Moscow photographer Vivian del Rio selected her best photographs from the last eight years.

“A photograph has one quality that I value the most: it works as extended memory,” says Vivian del Rio. As she looks through her pictures, that are very numerous, by the way – she can without a hinge of a doubt attribute where and when they were taken, and under what circumstances. Sometimes Vivian recollects everything in minute detail: who she was with, what she was wearing, even scents, fragrances and smells that accompanied the situation. “That’s why to choose ten and talk about them in a focused way was not very easy,” the photographer admits. “So, on second thought, I decided to take pictures from different periods.”

Vivian del Rio, 48 years old

Artist, photographer. Born in Moscow. Spent her childhood years with her parents in Cuba. Graduated from Moscow Higher School of Printing (at present Moscow State University of Printing named after Ivan Fyodorov). Author of “Unconscious Painting”, “Greenery”, “Havana+Moscow”. Lecturer at the School of Visual Arts. Has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions. Works are in numerous private collections and at the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg. In the recent years she has mostly been doing street photography.

This photograph was taken in 2007 with a digital compact Canon. I was walking home, but not the same way as usual, I had taken a different path and saw a bright colour combination. It is just two kiosks: tobacco and ice-cream. At that period of time I was rarely taking people pictures, abstract themes seemed more interesting. I had composed the picture and at that moment a sparrow flew right in. This image has been to a lot of exhibitions and was featured in the media, on postcards and calendars.

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“Synchronous Smoking,” April 2009. It was one of the first warm spring days that make you feel – with a huge intensity – like walking around looking for new pictures. In one of the bystreets in Novy Arbat area I saw two office workers who were standing outside and smoking. They couldn’t see one another because there was a half open door between them. I had to act very quickly because the next second everything would have changed – there was no time to think about the composition. The bad comp of this image tortures me to the present day. Nontheless, this photograph has been all around Russia in personal and group shows.

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“Сrosswalk,” September 2008. This picture was taken from Krymsky bridge. A year later I saw the same dogs on the same crosswalk. I was intrigued, so I followed them down. It turned out that the dogs lived at the gas station beside the bridge and payed regular visits to the artists at the art market nearby who occasionally fed them. It is one of my most favourite works.

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This is probably my most popular photograph. Postcards with it are always sold out extremely fast. The picture was taken in Cuba in April 2008. In February 2014 I came back to this place; the paint had faded away a bit, but was still there. There still were plastic bags with food in the windows, something was drying, but the window panes were broken, and the wires were hanging loose. I decided to take another picture of it. Men who were standing by started pointing their fingers at me and laughing. “Go ahead, laugh,” I thought. The 2008 image is in my book Havana+Moscow.

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February 2013. You don’t necessarily need to go to exotic countries to take interesting pictures. On the contrary, it is possible to keep coming back to the same place in your home city and wonder at how much it changes – depending on the weather and season. Alexandrovsky Garden is one of my favorite places in Moscow. I have a lot of pictures with these trees, but this one is probably the best.

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It was a grey and cold day in December 2011. There was a drizzling rain, it was windy. A friend invited me to a poster exhibition. I always have my camera on me, but that day I screwed on the 50 mm lens – to have less to carry. We were walking from Turgenevskaya metro station, taking side streets, suddenly through an archway of one of the houses I saw workers renovating a wall. I rushed to take a picture. My friend, a really big guy, with a severe physique, went into a panic, “What if they kick us in the head there? What are you doing?” I laughed very hard, especially considering that I had to come closer than usual because of the short focal length. This photograph is now in the collection of the Russian museum in Saint Petersburg.

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Paris. August 2010. Early in the morning there is almost no queue to go up the Eiffel tower. But still – to go up is a whole ordeal. In the middle of the first platform there are metal nets to discourage potential suiciders. There are a few holes people scraped through those nets. Through those holes I saw the queue of people waiting to go up. The sun was on and off behind the clouds, and the queue lived its own life, its configuration was constantly changing. It even occurred to me that it looked like a hyerogliph. I took a few pictures. It was difficult to chose one because they are all so different. But I never saw anything of this kind – before or after. So I dare to assume that I took quite a unique image of the famous tower.

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December 2010. I see this place twice a day, when I go out and come back. I’ve taken pictures of it a million times, but have never been happy with the result. There have been old ladies with dogs and teenagers on a bench. The wall has been repainted hundreds of times, and eventually the sky became yellow. My guess? They had run out of blue paint. But that time finally I had the picture. The man was having a drink with a view over the Kremlin. I call this picture “With a view.”

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This picture was taken on January 1, 2013. There were a lot of people walking around Red Square. For some reason the mausoleum was covered with an inflatable hemisphere and surrounded by a red fence. People were joking that its inhabitant was being kidnapped by aliens or else he was being sent into the space by local authorities. The whole thing looked strange – to say the least of it – which was accentuated by this woman exhaling smoke.

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In May 2014 I was a tutor at a workshop. I took my students to VDNKh, to a soap bubble show. They dispersed in the huge crowd, while I was walking around a fountain in search of either a picture or my companions. A woman with a black coat on her head caught my eye. She looked really strange in that heat, with so many naked bathers around. I focused on her, and right at that moment an even more absurd-looking character entered the frame. Together with the spaceship, a bronze woman with a steering wheel, a small boy trying to steal a huge shoe it makes quite a good picture that will travel around the globe – not necessarily in my company.

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