Re-edited some pictures from the Karabasch series. Somehow black & white works much better (at least for me)... 

The mining town of Karabasch, situated about 1,800 km east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains, is one of the World's most polluted locations. A copper smelting plant is situated in the town since 1910, which is emitting extremely large amounts of pollution. 

Within 100 years, the factory has the surrounding area extended burned and covered with slag. Per year of operation, it encounters more than 180 tons of gas in the atmosphere, the back falls as acid rain in the local area back to earth. For decades, the soil in and around Karabasch is contaminated by high concentrations of highly toxic metals like lead, arsenic, nickel, cobalt, cadmium, copper and zinc, some of which exceed the maximum permitted limit for the two-to 150-fold. The iron content exceeds the norm by a factor of 500. In 1996 the town was officially recognized by the Russian government as a "ecological disaster zone", the UNESCO lists Karabasch as on of the most polluted locations on earth.



2014 is almost over. And with up to +16°C here in Austria there is anyway no chance to make some decent winter pictures. ;-) So time to look back. Looking back to quite a turbulent year. A lot of traveling again. Started a few new projects. Changed camera system. Got married...

Here is so to say a (small) summery in pictures of 2014.

Into the Abyss
Started the year with my "Sphere" Project. A picture per day for half a year (or so)

February. Exhibition at the KUNST 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

Ocean born
March. We went to the Fotofest Portfolio Review in Houston, TX, USA. And did some pictures for Vika's Project "Life loves Death" in the beaches of Galveston.

April. Added some pictures to my "Ghost" series.

May. Going east. We drove to the Ural, visited Magnitogorsk, Arkaim and a lot of other nice places, crossing the border between Europe and Asia quite often.

June. Back in Moscow. Spent a lot of time in Gorki Park and rambling the streets...


July. Went to Arles again. Attended the Portfolio review. And spent some times at the beach too...

August. Moscow. Early morning in an empty park. The doll was just sitting there. Quite spooky...

Lost again.
September. Commuting (by car) between Austria and Russia. A opportunity to add some pictures to my "Lost" series...

October. The beauty of small things...


November. Started with my new project. "Tolerance".

December. Lets see where to the year 2015 will lead us...



Stephen Kotkin
Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization 

In May of this year we where traveling to the Ural area and on this occasion we where also visiting the city of Magnitogorsk. Founded in 1929 as a „utopian project“ the city was built complete from scratch around a mountain of iron ore. This book is telling about the Komsomolsk (member of the communist youth movement) which went there to built out of nothing not only the steel work (actually still the world largest Iron- and Steelwork) but a complete city (which has now a population of about 450.000). And it is showing the other side of stalinism too: Forced labour (Magnitogorsk was also part of the gulag system), the purge of 1937/38, all the mismanagement and utopian dreams which never came true. If you want to learn more about this time, about the utopian visions of the UdSSR, about hardship and idealism this book is really worth reading...

Synopsis from Amazon
Stephen Kotkin was the first American in 45 years to be allowed into Magnitogorsk, a city built in response to Stalin's decision to transform the predominantly agricultural nation into a "country of metal". With unique access to previously untapped archives and interviews, Kotkin forges a vivid and compelling account of the impact of industrialization on a single urban community. Kotkin argues that Stalinism offered itself as an opportunity for enlightenment. The utopia it proffered, socialism, would be a new civilization based on the repudiation of capitalism. The extent to which the citizenry participated in this scheme and the relationship of the state's ambitions to the dreams of ordinary people form the substance of this story. Kotkin depicts a whole range of life: from the blast furnace workers who labored in the enormous iron and steel plant, to the families who struggled with the shortage of housing and services.


Black & White

Trying out some black & white conversion methods. Consistent with weather and mood...


Work in Progress
Tolerance is another word for indifference. 
[W. Somerset Maugham]

Individuality. Habits. Features. Tradition. Beliefs. Needs. Desires. Preferences.

This is what defines us as a personality. That is everything what is valuable for us. We are ready to fight for our right to be what we are, to love what we love, but… we do not exist in a vacuum. We are social creatures, living in a society full of individuals different from us. So we meet other categories:

Society. Socialization. Law. Norms. Rules. Realities.

We consider our preferences like doubtless value, but we dependent on society. Sometimes our personal characteristics are in accordance with the demands of the society, sometimes they are protected by the society, but the rest? This very important rest starts the story of compromises, our attempts to fit into existing rules and to convince ourselves that we really need it...


The credo of contemporary society is tolerance for other people's peculiarities, even if this is creating a detriment of our own interests. The tolerance is strictly protected by laws, regulations and the public opinion. Set of institutions controlling its observance. But nothing, adjustable and guarded so carefully, can be a symbol of the real Tolerance...

The symbol can only be the case where the Tolerance is so natural and beneficial to all participants that there is it no need for regulation or protection. In our society there exist such a thing. A place where all of us forget about all the differences - language, nationality, family status, religion, the cost of insurance, political opinion, education level, age, social status. We do not care who was there before us and who will come after. We become tolerant to everybody because we all are human being...
[Text: Viktoria Dematté]




If I knew what art is, I would keep it to myself.

[Pablo Picasso]

Those who are interessted in art photography may have seen it already:

Peter Lik Print Sells for $6.5 Million, Shattering Record for Most Expensive Photo

Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik has taken the crown for most expensive photo ever sold. “Phantom,” the picture shown above, was sold to a private collector for a staggering $6.5 million. The record was previously held by Andreas Gursky’s “Rhein II”, which sold for $4.3 million back in 2011.[http://petapixel.com]

"Phantom"                  Photo: Peter Lik www.lik.com

I will not comment on the photograph now - any definition of "art" is anyway a subjective one. Perhaps only this: I personally prefer it definitely to Gursky's picture...

For me the really interesting about this story are the discussions, which can be found on various art criticism pages and Photography Blogs on the Internet ...

Let‘s start with the official announcing from Peter Lik‘s website:
“Phantom” Sells for an Astounding $6.5 Million 
Peter Lik has officially made art history by selling the most expensive photograph ever – setting a world record. An official press release was issued today, outlining details on the $6.5 million sale of masterwork, “Phantom.”
  One of Peter’s all-time, favorite places to shoot lies in the Southwestern region of the United States, where he is continually drawn to Arizona’s Antelope Canyon – a slot canyon carved out by natural flowing water over the course of millions of years. It is here, in a subterranean cavern, that Peter captured “Phantom” – a stunning, black & white depiction of a ghostlike figure.
  The private collector, who purchased the $6.5 million “Phantom” in November 2014, also acquired Lik’s masterworks “Illusion” for $2.4 million and “Eternal Moods” for $1.1 million. With this incredible $10 million sale, Lik now holds four of the top 20 spots for most expensive photographs ever sold. He already has a position in the ranking with a previous $1 million sale of famed image, “One.”
  For over 30 years, Peter has followed a calling to capture and share the most beautiful places on earth. A myriad of awards and accolades mark the career of a dedicated and talented artist – a man who came from humble beginnings in his native Australia. This historic moment only further proves that Peter Lik is undoubtedly a true leader in the world of fine art.
"This historic moment only further proves that Peter Lik is undoubtedly a true leader in the world of fine art."  Well, that's a powerful statement, isn‘t it? But many others don‘t see it this way: 
The Most Expensive Photo in the World, or the Best Marketing Stunt?
As with his 2010 piece, One, the purported sale was to a private collector, and therefore there was no way to verify the claim. Rumors have swirled for years that Lik’s investors “buy” his works at absurd prices as a marketing stunt to generate interest in his work. Lik has multiple galleries in the US and in his home country of Australia, and aggressive sales tactics are a hallmark of the galleries’ style. [petapixel.com]
Let's set aside the discussion what's art and what's not. Let's see how the price of a work of art is "made":
Sara Friedlander, Vice President, Head of Evening Sales at Christie’s explained that the price of a photo in the art world is based on an amalgamation of uniqueness, provenance and scale. [petapixel.com]
Side note: Really? Size matters? And what about technique? (you know, there is a x-rated joke about size and technique ;-))

A somewhat different, less commercial access has Jörg Heiser, editor of the art magazine „Freeze“:
1. Reflects the artwork its time?2. Is the artist  tusing he material skilfully, intelligent and/or in a imaginative way?3. If the resulting artwork original, funny or witty?4. Is the artwork touching or surprising me, do I learn something new? 
As I said earlier, I do not want to evaluate Lik's picture. This is done by others. Like Jonathan Jones, the art critic of the British newspaper The Guardian. And there it will be really funny:
Peter Lik’s hollow, cliched and tasteless black and white shot of an Arizona canyon isn’t art – and proves that photography never will be. [theguardian.com]
The same critic has written about a year ago the following:

Photography is the serious art of our time. It also happens to be the most accessible and democratic way of making art that has ever been invented. 
But the photography that meets the critieria of the art world is just a tiny sliver of the camera's artistic riches. From news images to the Hubble telescope, Photography is the art of real life – however manipulated. And real life creates true art. [theguardian.com]
So can we take such rankings like "The most expensive photograph ever" seriously? And can we take art critic seriously (aside from that that they can "make" an "Artist" or can prevent an artist's career)? IMHO: No.

Finally, the definition of an art critic I've found somewhere on the web (sorry, don‘t know where anymore):

An art critic is nothing more than a conscientious objector who goes down into the battlefield long after the war has been waged and pokes the wounded.

Exactly to the point.

 Update 14/12/2014

The story is - not unexpectedly - causing quite a stir (at least in the world of photographers;-)). 

First of all, the response from Sean O'Hagan, another art critic of The Guardian:

Especially Lik‘s  self-appointed titel of a "true leader in the world of fine art" is challenged more then once:
As 'fine art' Lik’s work has been ignored by major art galleries and dismissed by critics - when his photos have gone up for public auction, they have not sold well. Lik’s photographs have no secondary market or value.This makes the '$6.5m canyon: the most expensive photograph ever' claim all the more questionable - that's the story - it has nothing to do with art but everything to do with the truth and marketing.
One can find a lot of stories about Lik (eg here and here).  Taken aside the quality of his photographs he seems to be first and foremost a "true leader in self marketing"...



The real voyage of discovery consist not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. 
(Marcel Proust)

Our today's society can‘t do anything with the little ones, with tranquility and spirituality. Everything is huge, flashy, pushy. Perfection and flawless behavior are expected in all areas.

Our aesthetic ideas are reflecting this world: smooth, flawless, characterless. White porcelain, concrete, metal, edges, corners, straight lines, disclaiming everything soft, natural and rounded. Instead of sensuality there is sterile beauty. The aesthetics of the industrialial, the machine-crafted, the useful is prevailing -  an aesthetic of chilliness.

This idea of perfection don't let us find our innere peace. Have we reached a level of perfection, then we need to strive for even greater perfection. But we will never achieve this impossible goal - and we are blaming ourselves.

It is incredibly difficult to break free of this quest for perfection. We require error-free photograph. But "error-free" does not exist. Where is the soul, the feeling? With all our measuring, thinking, pondering we kill our creative side. Photos are reduced to products. Photography is suddenly no longer a image of our soul. As we are focusing exclusively on the technical aspects it in fact gets meaningless and unimportant. The majority does not want any soul but photos that look as if they were made by machines. Custom-made commodity.

We need an aesthetic concept where the given is accepted, a concept that works with nature, a concept of artistic interpretation of what is given and of the humble. An emotional art in which the artistic intention has priority and includes the "error" as part of the aesthetic whole with. A photograph, which goes beyond the golden ratio and the perfect aperture, where not the non-sterile perfection but the transient, the incorrect counts. We need to have room again for the small, ugly, unheeded. For simplicity. For the broken, holey, rusty. Photography as a reduction, as an admiration for the small, hidden things of life.

We must (re) learn to appreciate the moment in all its facets. We need to (re) learn to look at the little things in life, realize that it does not make us happier chasing after money, to have the latest camera, a big car. We need to (re) learn to accept what happened and to enjoy it, so "imperfect" the moment may be. We need to (re) find a photograph that gives us the freedom to photograph what we want most, what is important for without being forced in the corset of photographic rules and conventions, without squinting out what "the market" requires or what is "mainstream" or "contemporary" at the moment.

We need a photograph that lives by humility. Not spectacular sunsets, grossly enlarged (but meaningless) images or artfully arranged beauties, but reduction to the essentials, the play of light and shadow, to structures, on the capture of changes and the ephemeral. A quiet, slow photography.

We must (re) learn to allow "errors". Iris reflections, burned, boozed shadows. If the image is corresponding with our sense at the end, if it reveales its soul, we should accept "failure" as a part of the picture, even use them deliberately. Nothing is perfect - especially in photography.

We must (re) learn to give more room to feelings in our photography. More important than all considerations are intuition, the meditative sinking and the experience of the moment. We need to make images that are not staged and "conjures up" by technology. We need to (re) learn not to take pictures with the head but from the gut. More important than the concrete is an image that appeals to the subconscious. The pursuit of greater technical perfection leads to nothing, is killing the imagination and freezes us.