Boris Michajlov, who was born in the Ukrainian city of Charkov in 1938, is considered the most influential photographer to emerge from the former Soviet Union. His work, which combines concept art and documentation - offers profound insights into society in his home town during the Soviet and the post-Soviet period.
Art critic Gilda Williams claimed that Michajlov had succeeded in both criticising photographic conventions - thus
questioning photography's ability to produce the truth - and in using the genuine ability of photography to produce
art, and thus document his home town. Originally an engineer, Michajlov started taking photographs as a hobby. He
was barred from his profession in the nineteen-sixties because of his nude photographs of his wife. As a result, he
turned exclusively to photography.
The variety of forms that I used arose from my desire to establish a balance in the hypotrophic processes in our
society that distort reality due to their monotonous interpration, which prohibit all currents within art except for
Socialist Realism, and make it illegal to portray the naked body.
Since the early nineties, Michajlov has become well-known for his numerous exhibitions outside the former Soviet
Union, for example: at the Hasselblad Center in Göteborg (1991) and at the Centre National de la Photographie in
Paris (1999). In 1995 he moved to Berlin, where he has been living ever since. Awards he has received for his ouvre
include the Hasselblad International Award and the Citibank Photography Prize.
With Case History (1997-78) - the large formats were on view at the Saatchi Gallery in London in September 2001
- Michajlov presented case studies of bomzhes, the homeless of Charkow. With a series of about 500 photographs,
he documents the degeneration of the Soviet myth. He sees the homeless as both actors in an existential tragedy
and as losers in a concrete historical situation. He brings this situation to a head, by paying the homeless for their
I wanted to reproduce the societal relations. The people I photographed had no real choice in the matter: they either
accepted or they disappeared.