PHOTOGRAPHY 90 TAMPERE
The West of Danny Lyon and the East of Rifkhat Jakupov on neutral ground
The wall broke down in Berlin in 1989, and immediately after that the ruins of the socialist economies of Eastern Europe opened up for the capitalist market economies of Western Europe. The consensus of Finnish society and photography unravelled when the economic depression of the early 90's fell on Finland. It broke the European record in the speed with which companies gave notice to their employees. In few years the number of the unemployed almost increased tenfold. When Finland turned its "neutral" look from the East to the West as it joined the European Union, the society polarised and photographic art became post-modern.
Almost as a reminder of its position as a geopolitical and cultural middle-ground of the East and the West, a photographic event was organised in Tampere of Finland in 1990, whose main guests arrived from the superpowers of the West and the East. The American photographer and film-maker Danny Lyon and the Russian photographer Rifkhat Jakupov were the ambassadors of photography. The theme of the seminar and workshops of Photography 1990 was creative reportage.
The adversaries of the Cold War mocked uninhibitedly their own imperiums. Known for his prison- and motorcycle gang-documents, Lyon criticised the USA for being a nation where the government only supported artist who create decent and clean art. A hysteria of censorship was born in the USA when homoerotic photographs were removed from Robert Mapplethorpe's exhibition. While Danny Lyon scorned the membership of the legendary photographic agency, Magnum, Jakupov - who was liberated by Perestroika and who wanted to enter the photography market of the West - a membership would have been a dream come true. Jakupov believed in the power of reportage, whilst Lyon was repulsed by magazines and newspapers.
Lyon and Jakupov used traditional black-and-white film in their reportage and photo-essays. Both of them, besides social wrongs and phenomena, dived into privacy: into their own people and families. Jakupov showed pictures of Tatars in Tampere, Lyon his latest film of his own family. Jakupov was then in the midst of making a book on Tatars and Lyon on 60's civil rights battles.
In the workshops of Photography 1990 Jakupov's pupils created traditional reportage, whilst Lyon loved to present his photo collages. He had just produced a photography book about his family, I Like to Eat Right on the Dirt (1989). In the book Lyon builds photo collages, as did Robert Frank in his autobiographical, pre-post-modern book The lines of my hand (1989, first published in 1972) that resembled a paper movie. Lyon was flattered when I mentioned the similarities between his and Frank's styles. Still, he was only enraptured by his fishing trips to Finnish countryside and the salmon a fisherman caught from Tammerkoski in the centre of Tampere.