The photographer Gennadiy Che took part in Odessa’s Batumi Photo Days festival, but there is one exhibit he treasures for which a festival setting is not right. The photographer came to The Odessa Review offices for a casual visit, and stayed to tell a different kind of photographic story for an audience of one.
Whether we like it or not, admit to it or not, our daily actions and thoughts are increasingly carried out in the public eye. The undocumented life is not worth the effort: Why steal time from the delicate work-life balance for the sake of certain events and activities if the influential members of your social circle will never find out about your sophisticated choices? For those who do value the privacy of their experiences and are interested in discovering achievements of the similarly minded, there is a modern dilemma — how does one attend an intimate private event, if that event is not announced on social media…? Which would effectively prevent it from being quite so intimate and private…
Exactly how I came to take part in the encounter described here is perhaps irrelevant, as is the particular setting in which the Stray Dog story found me. In fact, I might admit that I was somewhat ambushed by a surprise meeting, and it was unclear to me from the beginning of the meeting as to what to expect. Which perhaps might be the best way to approach this unique experience. The term “extraordinary” is lamentably overused in describing original ideas, but here was something truly beyond any recognizable format of typical artistic presentation.
In the modern workplace, if a stranger enters the office and sits down for a one-on-one conversation with you, the expected interaction is that of a “pitch.” They will try to “sell” you something, and you will make a judgment on whether to “buy it.” It is difficult to step away from this scenario, especially if you are a magazine editor and the stranger in question is a photographer. So, as the man seated across from me reached into a beat-up cardboard box and handed me a thick stack of photographs, I might have expected a publishing pitch, if not for the weathered dog collar that the box also contained. He suggested that I look through the photographs at my own pace and ask questions if I have them. No other directions were forthcoming.
Awkwardly at first, but eventually overtaken by a natural curiosity, I made my way through the stack. All photos had been taken using expired analog film. Some are color, some black and white — not so much as a conscious aesthetic choice, but because that was the film readily available at the moment. Occasionally there is a series of two, three or four images. There is a “man with a movie camera” feel, recording experience as it happens. It is not unlike an Instagram stream for a single viewer, some frames clearly premeditated and some seemingly accidental.
The Stray Dog exhibit travels with its author, the journey becoming reflected in its content. New destinations prompt new additions that may displace older items in the stack. When asked whether he tracks the way his story changes by making lists of featured photographs at certain points in time, Gennadiy is puzzled and ambivalent. The work is organic, flowing — a series of flash impressions seen through the eyes of a wanderer. Often, there is no palpable logic to which images fade out from memory and which linger in the mind’s eye. Gennadiy does keep records of his solitary viewers, however, noting them down by full name or any other monicker chosen by the participant. I myself was viewer number 63. Thus, in the end, as a witness of the exhibit I still became part of a group — but a unique one.
Katya Michaels is the Senior Editor of The Odessa Review