alexander mendelevich – weariness

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EPF 2010 Finalist

Alexander Mendelevich


play this essay


I am looking for fineness and perfection in humanity. It is interesting for me to expose it through drama, the drama of  being. I am trying to find these  moments in ordinary things that fill our lives, like our emotions, events at work or with family, happiness or unhappiness in relationships, good food with the man you love or lonely supper on a holiday. Thousands of things in our every day existence, things which make us sensual. Staged photography gives me more control to make the occurring more sharp, to build reality on the set like a sculptor, when you can feel every detail, where 1/60 sec. of exposure is transformed to something permanent. It’s like to try to compress all of life in one regular situation and to turn emotion and feeling into an object.



I was born in Pyatigorsk, Northern Caucasus, Russia on 07/12/1979. After high school and three years of studying Economy and Management, I moved to Israel. I served in the army as an ambulance driver and then finished my B.F.A. at the Jerusalem Academy of Arts and Design in the photography department.


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Alexander Mendelevich


19 Responses to “alexander mendelevich – weariness”

  • Hi Alexander.. I appreciate the thought put in to these images, but I find there to be something missing for me personally. Possibly its due to me not having enough experience reading this style of staged image. So maybe I will change my opinion after ready others observations and then see something I’ve missed. I hope so. Though I appreciate your idea in trying to express these subtle emotional situations we all experience which are otherwise very fleeting and very awkward to catch in reality.

  • I am sorry but this is school work for me. In every photographic school during every semester we can see work like this. Of course it is very good work but anyway.
    I am just surprised it is EPF finalist.

    I send series of photos to EPF also, so all I can say at the end is sincere congratulation Alexander.

  • I agree this essay has the look and feel of a typical school work. Still, amongst those there is always a few that stand out. I think this could be one, although I’m still figuring out internally whether I really like this, or find it too trivial and am just impressed by the beauty of the images (which is definitely there!!). I guess I have to go through it a few more times….some of them are just too conceptual for me.

    Congratulations in any case Alexander!

  • Alexander, congrats on getting featured on Burn. I have gone through your essay 4 or 5 times and have looked at all the detail. First, let me say I love the light and quality in your photos. Outstanding.

    The military uniforms seem to play a huge part in this series and knowing something of Israel and how the young often respond to their required military duty I see a story of their reactions and emotions involved in the required duty.

    The woman with the trash can sitting on the floor and the woman with the spilled coffee seem to speak the same message of depression from dealing with the garbage of life and the spills and tumbles. The man stooping over spilled garbage in front of his door–no clue at this point.

    And the tomato. In one a woman with a military uniform is holding a plate with one that has a large piece missing and the other she is stepping on one. Is the tomato representative of Israel’s enemies? And as a woman how does she feel? They both seem removed from the action.

    I keep looking at each item knowing since these are staged everything means something. The naked element and the man in his underwear seem to represent the fears of life and how they are caught in our dreams–arriving somewhere like school or work embarrassingly naked.

    Why is the one woman on her knees holding her tongue or is she pulling a hair from her tongue? And is that dog food? Why with her breasts exposed? Does this have something to do with hair of the dog? Maybe a morning of regret of drunken behavior…The woman puking with the pattern hose out her front door with the painting of plants I have no clue. Unless she is pregnant and experiencing morning sickness and it is screwing up her life–puking all over her perfect landscaped life.

    The two beach scenes, especially the woman with the paddle board, brings up nothing for me. Except dreaminess of the freedom of enjoying the beach. The man is stepping out of a uniform…

    As you can see I’m confused somewhat by this series. Since these are all staged maybe after a few people comment on their gleanings you could fill us in on what you were portraying in each one.

    I find I like these. Maybe I am playing on the Israel and military uniform connection too much. It was fun though thinking of these.



    any reason why “school work” cannot be a finalist? after all , we are looking at new, young, and most often student photographers…by the way, there was nothing else even approaching this work style among the photographers who submitted to the EPF…maybe there is a better one in the schools you know, but they did not submit…you will always be surprised at who is a finalist…primarily because you have no idea who submitted…except for one…smiling…waiting to see your singles…

    cheers, david

  • It all seems a little too contrived to show anything of the everyday for me. I can understand and like the having the shots set up but the models appear a little to directed – their poses a little too forced or unnatural for the photos to represent any kind of ‘moment’ in their lives.


    I have no problem with that Alexander is EPF finalist, no at all. Contest is just contest. Like you said I don’t know the rest of works. This is good work but for me is not as good as rest of finalists, thats all.
    Compared to the best not the the weak one.
    Always compared to the best


    actually the jurors agree with you…the Alexander essay was not among the very top choices out of the finalists…

    no matter what we do, it is always hard to find the very best good works…always rare..always will be rare…

    cheers, david

  • Well, congratulations Alexander. I’m afraid this genre of photography is not for me but you entered EPF and you’re a finalist so good on ya!

    Judging by the paucity of posts here (8 responses, including a dialogue between Marcin and DAH) I’m not alone in wondering what to make of the essay. I heard a phrase “artists who use photography” recently and I’d put this essay in that category. I’m not attempting to undermine the work and I’m struggling not to dig myself into a hole here.



  • Ok, brace yourself! : )

    I love the concept behind this essay and the ‘creation of drama’. The images are good technically but many of the compositions are unappealing and since the shots are set up, there is really no excuse for this. This is not street photography where perfection cannot be expected in every shot when everything is ‘on the move in the moment’ although some photographers like DAH, Alex Webb, Carl de Keyzer and Marcus Bleasdale still manage achieve it and Anton Kusters is also expert in this department.

    The images I most enjoy are 3, 4, 5, 10 and 14 and it seems to me that the author composes better landscapes than verticals although 16 is an exception. I was not keen on 16 as the facial expressions and position appear incongruous (but perhaps need explanation)? I do like the use of colour overall – mostly it is subtle and not overstated.

    Something that hindered my viewing experience and comprehension from the get-go, was the first couple of lines of the intro. which lack clarity. This was very unhelpful. To help engage the audience further and unveil the mind of the author, it would be really great if symbolic elements could be spelt out or hinted at more obviously with attached text or perhaps the deeper meanings explained in audio – or if the emphasis is more on feelings, perhaps even writing poetry to read along with it?

    I think the author would benefit from looking at Congo (Belge) because that book really illustrates something that an essay in which the shots are staged should blow us away with: continuity and adherence to a style (whether that be just for the duration of a single essay or a whole body of work).

    On a final note, I find the nudity in no way adds to the essay without greater explanation. The nudity appears gratuitous and a ‘weariness’ indeed to see sex organs on display – not that we don’t all like to engage with them in the PRIVACY of our own lives obviously.

  • I heard a phrase “artists who use photography” recently and I’d put this essay in that category……… a rather demeaning statement or is it Mike that as a photographer your input into society is more important than that of artists? You make yourself out as if you are a cut above those that venture into art.

  • Alexander you have been given the nod by your peers and viewers that play the good, bad, better game are the ones that miss out.
    Work like this takes time to evolve into a substantial body of work that creates a sense of presence with an audience. I look forward to seeing how it all develops and evolves.

  • ennui, alienation, loneliness, displacement, quiet desperation… the understated weirdness of the very ordinary; these are the themes that speak to me through these images. for the most part i feel they work very well and – apart from the last one – hang together as a coherent whole.
    my main criticism would be the re-use of similar tropes in a small selection of pictures. when the garbage idea enters in image 4 it is striking; by the time it reappears in 11 and 14 it might look like you’re running out of ideas.
    well done and congrats…

  • it seems to me that the best, (rather, strike that, as best is too suggestive/biased), that the most satisfying way to look at work is to remove yourself (if possible) from the trappings in which an essay has been delivered… the case of Sasha’s essay, and in fact, ALL of the epf essays, is that it is hunkered down by the unfortunate weight of being judged as an EPF finalist….this is a MOST UNFORTUNATE way to view work and i would ask and challenge viewers to remove yourself, if possible, from that calculus….

    i know it is hard, because we see work and think, as Marcin has written, ‘this was the best of the best submitted’, but that implies that 1) an award submission suggests, a priori,: it does not, necessarily 2) we should interpret and see work through the prism of value against what others define as value, collectively or by commission/panel, 3) when an audience tends (at least commentators) to define work by a tradition and narrow spectrum of photography, we tend to harness group expectations/think, 4) we’ve already been handed a judgement by another (an EPF finalist), so how can we arrive at the work with fresh and patient eyes?, and 4) we expect, by it’s nature of pulbication here, to be of a certain type….etc…to quote P. Marovich “YAWN”….

    this is the second essay that david has published by Sasha. The first was called ‘outside’…it similarily was dismissed…i wrote a long comment there as well supporting the work….and yea, i guess i’ll do the same here, by re-quoting….as it still applies…

    i see this work not as documentary, obviously, but as theatre….beckett, inonesco, albee, pinter, mayakovsky, etc… uses the photographic medium and it’s apparent verisimilitude to suggest quite clearly metaphors that are not only playful but have, in the day’s end, a joy and recognition…… doubt this type of conceptual, metaphor-making, theatrical photographic is done, and promulgated, in art schools all over the globe, shit i see a ton of shows by young photographers here in toronto, moscow and nyc with same orientations, but this does NOT take away from the pleasure, for me, of work that is having fun….this series is stronger than Outside…and it’s use of the body is more bold (big time references to Boris Mikhailov’s A Case Study) and more questioning…..

    i guess what i am suggesting is that the sooner we all get over (if possible) the connection of an essay to either it’s recognition by others (in this case it’s awarding an epf finalist position) and get on with the business of looking and thinking about work and how other photographers use the medium to tell stories, the better and more inspired we’ll all be….

    surely, maybe not be all’s type of work….but frankly, i gave up more than a year ago giving a damn about whether work was included or not in the EPF, or who won/did not won, and instead concentrated on the part that we all should feel a responsibility toward: thinking about work that is published here, whether we did it or not….

    and congrats sasha….i like your playfulness indeed….

    here is what i’d written on his last essay


    A nose that can see is worth two that sniff.”-Eugene Ionesco

    “Living is abnormal.”-Eugene Ionesco

    “people standing in lines discovered three terrible truths:
    1. Money is real.
    2. The people standing in line next to you have different abilities.
    3. There are not 3 kinds of sausage but 33. Or even 333.”–Vladimir Sorokin

    Ok, so I PROMISE I will not post a 1200-line poem again (even though i was VERY TEMPTED to post Vladimir Mayakovsky’s play “Bedbug”) because I do not want to incur Michael or Herve or Steve wrath again ;)))….but i will post a link at the end ;))…

    First of all, let me congratulate Sasha on being published here. Frankly, I loved it. And I will TRY to offer a perspective into which people can ‘view/see’ this essay and maybe re-appraise their thoughts. First of all, for me it is impossible to view this essay without thinking of Theatre, particularly modern, post-modern, absurdist theatre as well as the great Russian tradition of theatre. Call me the Inspector General, but when i first looked at this essay last night, I immediately thought of Gogol’s The Inspector General, Mayakovsky’s The Bedbug and Ionesco “The Bald Soprano”….this is not ‘documentary’ photography, it is not ‘reportage’, it is not ’street photography’, it isn’t even Freudian, introspectionist conceptual photography. It’s theatre, and I think can be view, appreciated and really enjoyed within the framework of contemporary theatre, or even the history of performance art, which just happens to be ‘documented’ with a photograph, as were most of the pieces performed in the 60’s and 70’s in the infancy of the performance arts movement.

    but, it is incredibly funny and actually quite self-deprecating. I can’t believe that so few have tapped into it’s brilliant and absurdist humor. The pic of the guy with the mirror shaving his back (god damn guys, who hasn’t looked at their back in the mirror and thought: what the fuck is that odd island of growth doing there??). Actually, i saw all the pictures as if photographs from a staging of a play, and in that perception, that perspective, they spoke to me. Then again, i LOVE theatre and love reading plays and love going to see them. I wish to add as well that Russia, and russian artistic and literary history and orientation, cannot be understood without appreciating the richness and importance of the Theatre experience. It is with this perspective, that I also see Sasha’s essay as being connected to: the strange, and silly and hilarious and absolutely abnormal and odd ‘joke’ that the living experience, that each of us experience and is such a rich and vital part of theatre, particularly modern theatre.

    Why must a photographic essay be about the ‘moment.’ the vitality, at least for me, of photography, is that as a medium it continues to grow and expand and reach outward to include the intersection of ideas and art forms and history that other forms of expression (theatre, fine art, literature, music, film) already traverse. Yes, this is NOT a magnum essay, nor is it documentary work or journalism, nor is it (to me at least) navel gazing. It’s a funny, sometimes brilliant, sometimes boring, series of theatrical images that mine someone’s experience of living and seeing and acting and playing and remembering. I remember the first time i saw Ionesco’s play THE CHAIRS in university, 1/2 the audience walked out….and then i thought, damn, when did audience loose their sense of the playful….photography has grown past the need for a consideration that is universal in application. Each photographer needs to focus on that part of photography that makes the best sense. For some, it’s the refinement of the ‘image’ (beautiful pictures) for some it’s the versimilitude and documentation of the moment (documentary, journalism), for some it’s the rejection of style or the abundance of style, for some it’s theatrical, visual language, for some it’s the idea of conceptual architecture, for some it’s just family albums….

    for me, the essay is akin to experience a great modernist play, all that absurdity and humor that really speaks to the iconography of our lives and our thoughts and the absurd experiences that happen to us and they we get ourselves caught up in…if your’ve seen a play, think of that when yu look at these pictures….

    is this kind of work the kind of work that sticks with me in the gut or soul?…probably not, because for me, there is still not enough ’sadness’ or ‘loss’ to remain stingy my gut, but the work, for me, is strong enough to make me smile and say ‘that’s funny’ or ‘that’s right’….are some of the images weak, for me yes, is it a bit too ‘repetitive’ (in the sense of stretching a point), yea, for me, but do i appreciate and value this, did it make me think: wonderful theatre, yes….

    What i do, however, lament is that Artist statement. As a writer and a photographer, I just get really frustrated by the way some use art-speak to mine the vitality of what already exists in their work, and by extension end up undermining them. There is little of the absurd in the statement…..UNLESS, the statement itself is a characateur, an absurd decoy, a joke itself that minimics all the silly artists statements that seem to come boiling up from the underground of the artworld and photography world….and actually, that’s how i read the statement, as part of this absurdist theatre….maybe because im reading Sinyavsky’s GoodNIght now, im under his influence, but, i think, actually, the statement might just be part of the grand guignol humor that exists in this essay….

    Sasha is Russian….and to understand the tradition of russian art, russian photogrpahy, russian literature, russian life, one must also understand that absurdity and humor lay at the nexus of the experienced life, and the artistic life too……..

    i think it’s a decent way to think, relating the work to Ballen (though, i prefer ballen of course), but each artist attempts to noose the live lived through the prism of the camera in their own way….for me, the work is just as universal as NG work, but in a much different way….then again, as i said, i love the theatre and performance art….

    it is a shame actually,…not that people don’t like this work (each of us reacts to work in their own way) but that, what seems to happen often at burn now, is that people rather arrogantly and obnoxiously dismiss work or make fun of others, just because it aint their thing….

    Саша.! :)) Здравствуйте. Мне очень понравилась эта история фотографических и я любил, что он напомнил мне о таком исполнении искусство жить и театр. Он был похож на большой театральной играть, и я любил, что иконография заполняется с абсурдным юмором и реальностью и фрейдистской символики. Кроме того, он посмотрел, как весело фотографировать.

    Спасибо за очерк. Я посылаю вам поздравления и уважение. Все самое лучшее,

  • I feel so weary right now…

    No, not because of your photos but because I just returned home from my latest trip into the field and am low on sleep. So I can relate with your theme.

    Beyond that, I can see that you have talent and it looks like you and your subjects had a great time when you created this one. It is well lit and I believe that each photograph does in some way make the statement that you intended, yet, to me, it does feel contrived and does not strike home near so strongly as would swell-done photographs that caught the same emotions and feelings for real.

    However, I am reluctant to criticize, as you are working in a realm that I have little experience with or much of a feel for and other knowledgeable photographers more qualified than I see something in it that has motivated them to give you space on Burn. It doesn’t move me, but that does not necessarily mean that it is not good.

  • er… “well done,” not “swell done.” You would think I was writing script for 1930’s or 40’s movie.

  • …and yet, I kind of like, “swell done.”

    “Swell done, my lad! Swell done!”

  • Swell done indeed. Welcome back Frost

  • Hello, everybody! And thanks for your opinions. Now, with my broken and funny English, I will try to tell about how I see all this.
    Marin Luczkowski.
    I see “school work” like something which have been not connected with each other, casual, without decisions, without relationships, sometimes beautiful, where there are little bit families photos, little bit friends photos, few photos “I am sad” and few photos “I travel”, ”out of home” ,etc. Looks lovely, easily and empty. However, all listed above can work perfectly, the main thing –it is approach.
    Lee Guthrie
    It is nice that you have translated my photos in such form : ) All what you said can be truth if that what you saw and felt in my photos. I offer to touch some situation emotionally through the mix of details, symbols, places, people, meanings, feelings. And all what you find- that is truth, according to your experience and sensitivity. The military uniform it is a serious symbol, especially in Israel, but I try not to do from this the main theme, not to say what’s wrong and what’s right. I want to create space where I ask questions and play with options for answers. If I have some strong symbol I wish to neutralize it, to show it in absurd light, it help me to be free from itself definition, to put it on background, like part of history, life conditions and to combine it with ordinary things, to build new connections. Photos with military uniform. Yes, it can be “…a story of their reaction and emotion involved in the required duty” , positive or negative, or both, or anyone. I also try to exit from this concrete condition of army and make my focus on their human behavior, their disturbance and their experiences on this background. “…Is tomato representative of Israel’s enemies?” I don’t’ know, may be tomato is just tomato. Following you it can be “broken heart of young soldier”, it can be simply bad day. And may be the point is ”…as a woman how does she feel?…” Ok, and a little bit about “…pulling hair from her tongue”. The photo can also to show what is absent, something that was before or after occurring in photo. Something happened and in photo you see a result of this. Here, it could be “naked element “(as you say) that was enough hurry up and it was enough for him to see a little bit of breast and of course to him it is not important there is a dog foot, it’s just there. So what we have, the hair on her tongue, confusion, emptiness, vulgarity … hair on her tongue is it enough for drama?
    There are weird things, forced , unnatural…yes, that is. Often “usual” representation not work for me and not talk to me, because it became kind of model, pattern, format that is in our heads (it’s coming from education, publicity, magazines, TV and what else). Model of “how sadness looks”, model of happiness, model of beauty, model of “how you must look when you are in depression”. So to feel difference between what truth and what not, between what work and what not ,to touch threshold and to see borders I need this “false performance”, this overstatement, this distortion. But I try to connect it to everyday situation, not weird for the sake of weird, not to show freaks for the sake of freaks.
    Jenny Lynn Walker
    Can I concern only to your final note? : )
    Ok, so I don’t see need for special reason to expose nudity in my photos. Especially within the art project. It is very interesting and it challenge because it is inconsistent and “milled” by everybody. Therefore to photograph it, it is necessary to overcome, consider or use all biases on this theme, all developed templates, exploitations of this contents, etc. The reason to photograph it because it concerns all: sex,shame,beuty,beuty exploitation,love,taboo,relationships, morals,religion,fashion, the entertainment industry, man’s and female sexual organs – whether this miracle?, parenthood, enjoyment etc. It is interesting to work with it.
    Bob Black

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