Igor MukhinKsenia, Moscow (2011)

I’m sure there are more technical photographers out there–but for my money, Mukhin is unrivaled.

Take this photo, for instance; it works because he seems to have obvious thought forget about shadow detail in her hair, I need something to anchor the composition. (This decision has the added benefit of emphasizing the way the light on her hair to the left look exceedingly sultry.)

He realize that the rest of the room is going to blow out and opts for an aperture that will give him just enough of a slice of in-focus depth of field that the sharpest focus begins just in front of her right knee and grows ever so slightly shallow just ahead of her face–which is tilted forward slightly. (Again, every so flattering but it also serves to separate her from the table she’s leaning against.)

And Oh My! but look at the same the entire frame demonstrates what Leica optics with do in correlation with film grain w/r/t over and under exposure and shallow depth of field.

Igor Mukhinimg167 (2009)

I’ve been looking at a metric fuck ton of Mark Steinmetz’s photos lately. And the reason I mention him is because of the fact that although I adore his use of space, he compositions don’t adhere to any ideal with which I am familiar.

With Mukhin, I can always draw a diagram. For example in the above image the staging from left to right of the nude male (standing in a modified contrapposto stance), the woman (whose semi-striding pose wouldn’t be out of place in one of those infamous Soviet war memorials) and the towel/purse hanging from the sapling form a triad that is not only easy to scan but also suggests a downhill slope from right to left toward the stream.

There’s also the little details: the darkest points in the frame are the purse and her inseam. This pulls the eye back to the man’s carefully man-scaped, uncircumcised member. (I enjoy the contradiction in his more modest post and the way she seems to be standing to block him from view slightly even though clearly whatever led up to this scene didn’t involve any sort of concern for modesty).

In fact, that’s what I think I dig most about Mukhin’s work: even aside from the fact that he tends to release images in groups inclusive of a particular happening, removed from the grouping there’s still very much a feeling of the image as rooted firmly in a very particular milieu. The virtue of what is included is that it points strongly towards what was excluded.

(In a value-neutral judgment, Steinmetz’s photos are dislocated, free floating, timeless. Thus his tendency to name images with their location.)

And I’m not sure if it’s because the first thing I encountered of Mukhin’s was his more erotic imagery but to me the specter of permissive sexuality seems to always resonate with his work. Such as here, where I can’t help wondering if what I think might have led to the need to brush one’s teeth is why the woman is brushing her teeth.

This photograph verges on being narrative because I want to know the nature of the events that led up to this moment. And the thing that Mukhin is so talented at doing is presented as a story something that he as the image maker stands in the same position as the viewer with regards to curiosity as far as origination.

[↑] Igor MukhinUntitled (2010); [←] rule of thirds (overlay); [→] rule of thirds + 18° (overlay); [↓] grain density & depth of field (magnification sampling)

I talk to much and say too little. I decided to show as opposed to telling you the genius-tier visual math shit going on here.

Igor Mukhin has forgotten more about the photographic craft than most of us will ever hope to know.

Igor Mukhin

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If it moves, Igor Mukhin likely shoots it; if it doesn’t, he’ll still take aim.

With nearly 5000 images—split between B&W film scans and Leica AG M9 captures, amassed over 6.5 years—perusing his photostream is like mainlining a hyper-distilled, chaotic mélange of interesting, occasionally ingenious work.

My head doesn’t wrap around such profligate excess easily—limitation is too central a feature in my own process. (Read: I am poor.) But I can let that slide. What I fail to fathom is how Mukhin’s haphazard, throw-it-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks curatorial approach works at all, let alone results in such jaw-dropping examples of all that photography should embody.

(To avoid unnecessary disappointment, skip his staid personal website.)