Pskov revisited - day 7

A day with students. A morning session with the kids from the local Art College, about 7 students presented their works to share and for me to critique. I normally find it hard to see fault with others work as we all create our images in our own eye, sure we can give credit and guidance on technicals but what matters whilst learning is the artistic representation of the subject. Saying all that the standard of work is extremely high, well up with and at times beyond what I have seen at some camera clubs. Thanks to course leader Nikolai Vladimirov for the invitiation and for arranging the session.

What was thought to be a more gentle session for the afternoon was a Q&A back at the Children's Art School but in fact was just as full on. For every exhibition that the Art School host they invite the artist to meet the pupils to talk about their work, their background and their inspirations. it was a fairly intense 1 1/2 hrs with a packed room and some great questions from how i started in photography to what will I be working on when I get back to Scotland with a lot of interest in how and why I created the Resting Highlands and Resting Russia projects. Thankfully no questions on my thoughts on the Ukraine situation this time.

Another huge thanks to my translator Ekaterina for her patience and language skills, translating must be hard enough but dealing with photographic and artistic phrases must be something of a challenge. Finally a thanks to the young musician for his excellent interlude sessions.

This marks the end of the 'work' over here, tomorrow is a day trip to Estonia for some sight seeing and the chance to catch up with a couple of the artists that attended last years Plein air.

Never been to Estonia before, very exciting !!

Pskov revisited - Day 6

Often in life its the little things in life that get remembered, and today is no exception…

Saying that I will remember the ‘big thing’ today, the formal reception meeting with Natalia Sokolova, Deputy Head of the City of Pskov, it was indeed an honour to represent Perth on this occasion. Following the exchange of gratitude regarding the collaboration leading up to the exhibition the meeting was dominated with discussions about the Ukraine situation. Clearly there is deep concern over here especially on a day of significant activity between Russia, Europe and the US, its an eye opener hearing first hand the views of the Russian people. The people and administration of Pskov are as keen as ever to develop cultural relations between our twin cities.

..and the little thing ? actually not so little but a chance opportunity to visit Oleg’s personal art studio. I have met Oleg on many occasions as an ambassador of the City of Pskov, a Plein air organiser, a teacher and an artist, but its only when you experience an artist's personal studio space that you get an insight into the real person behind the artist, or the artist behind the person ?. A modest cluttered studio on the top floor of a block of flats in an unassuming part of the city, bristling with work, materials and personal artefacts. Such a creative space.

The day was capped with an early evening visit to my hotel from Nikolai from the Art College where I will be meeting some photography students tomorrow, he arrived bearing gifts of cheese, bread, beer, and a bottle of Russian Vodka. Well, it would have been an insult to have refused his gesture of opening the bottle of Vodka to toast my visit to his city. Such a shame that his English is as bad as my Russian, think we understood less than a fraction of the conversation but when Vodka and photography are involved who needs the spoken word ?

pskov revisited - day 5

Back to being a photographer for the morning, was honoured to meet a couple of local photographers at the art school to talk about mine and their images .. with an extremely talented translator of course. Interestingly some of the debate was about what it means to be a professional photographer and how are they represented. I always struggle with the term pro photographer as it may not quantify your talent, you could make a living from selling poor quality or produce the highest quality work without making an income. But what came from the discussion was the ideal that a professional artist is one that is trained and produces work for which they riley on for their income and that in most countries photography is just another art medium (not all, and Scotland is in conflict with the association). I have struggled in finding photographic art in Russia even though there are many many photographers producing stunning work. Thinks its a not being in Moscow thing....

What did come from the meeting this morning is the desire for more collaboration in both our countries for photographic art exhibitions, we have some ideas and this is really exciting.

So, onto crossing the road - Russian style. At first I could not believe what was happening, people just walk into the road and cars stop, something of a modern day Moses. Many road junctions have traffic lights with the old green man light, and most in St Petersburg have countdown timers for both cars and pedestrians .. Sorted !

But many lesser junctions and most in Pskov just have a crossing sign somewhere high on a lamp post or pole, any road markings have long since worn away.  At these points and on all side roads pedestrians have right of way, you just walk out and the traffic stops - it just happens. I know this is the same in some European countries but in the uk we need flashing lights and road markings that are visible from space. It's an odd thing relying on drivers and pedestrians actually being aware of each other.

And finally I thought I had seen everything .. But I have now !. Vehicles with mirrors or windows missing, lights missing, even bumpers and chunks of bodywork left by the roadside. Today we passed a tractor pulling a trailer down the main road, the back seemed rather lop sided, which it was, that's because it had one back wheel missing. Still had 3 wheels so what's the problem, less tires to worry about !!

Pskov revisited - day 4

A rather strange day, visit to a monastery undergoing restoration, an enlightening discussion with a younger student, followed by lunch (like everything here), then the official opening of the show which was definitely up on media coverage with press photographer and radio & television interviews. All those years working in television I can see why I was always behind the camera, very strange being at the sharp end of the mic and lens !.. all I can say is thank heavens for the excellent translations and help by Olga from Administration. Everything works in slow motion with talk in Russian, translated into English, my response, back into Russian .. etc etc but it was a good turnout and good fun with lots of appreciation. And for once I did not have to take the pics ... so I guess there is some benefit from being out front :)

Clearly a landmark day but one lasting memory for me was I met some more students in the morning and many study English. One had a question for me, expecting to be asked what was it like in Scotland or something about photography, no, this totally took me back.

"what is my feeling about the situation in the Ukraine ?", from a 12yr old Russian girl.

Now her English was not perfect (infinitely better than my Russian) but her views seemed to represent many young children in Russia and they are a long way from what the UK press lead us to believe. We did manage a small debate but think I was still in shock at not only the level of interest in foreign views but also the elequantness of how she expressed her thoughts and how concerned they are for the safety of those effected on both sides.

I made reference yesterday to how things work in this country, must add education and social responsibility into that viewpoint.

Now, crossing the road Russian style, thats next .....

Pskov revisited - day 3

My hotel is ...  well, lets put this as a compliment ..  very Russian !! At first it may look a little dated and in need of some tlc but its just big and functional with no frills, just like the rest of the country. Its not what you would call an international hotel, everything is in Russian only including the staff which seem very friendly but who knows :), my room has the obligatory full size fridge and 80's tv in the corner, and as for the plumbing .. its 'functional', apart from the shower head that can point in any direction except towards you but at least the floor gets a wash every morning even if I don't. In terms of speaking Russian I am still trudging with basic pleasentries so no chance of "excuse me but can you send up a man with screwdriver to fix the shower", its not going to happen !  Despite this and what us Brits may think its actually a very easy country to stay in, folk are easy going and do not give you any hassle and things just work, even the cars and trucks that look like someone pinched from a scrapyard !

My excellent host Oleg introduced me to a few of the teachers this morning before heading out around the city for some sight seeing, then after a period of free-time (translated that means photo time) it was back to the school to sit for a portrait drawing class of 16-17 yr old students. Have to say the standard of drawing is just excellent, they start serious art very young in Russia which really works.

Tomorrow is the formal opening of the exhibition, kind of excited and nervous.

pskov revisited - day 2

A gentle day back into Russian life with a trip out to visit a couple of monasteries then back into the city to see the exhibition which is ready for the opening.

Russian history has given the country many monateries, cathedrals and a wealth of impressive architecture from its early years. Not being one for following historic or religious architecture too closely one cannot visit these building without being amazed at their elegance and strength not to mention their deep historic significance . They are also incredibly photogenic but a really tall step ladder would help at times.

Yet to play with pics from my 'real camera so a few iPhone shots for the journal.....