Lise Sarfati’s photos of Moscow boys and early 20th century country houses look, at first glance, like the set and actors from a movie about the “Russian experience.” But there is no defining narrative or script, there is simply the thoughtful, meditative eye of a photographer seduced by the faces of urban men and the facades of rural homes.

“Rough, Cold and Close: A Russian Poem” is showing at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York through December 6, 2008. Sarfati’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at FOAM Amsterdam; the Domus Artium, Salamanca, Spain; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France; and the Nicolaj Center of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1996, the artist was awarded the Prix Niépce in Paris and the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York. Twin Palms published a book of the artist’s second body of work titled
The New Life (La Vie Nouvelle) in the fall of 2005. Ms. Sarfati obtained a master’s degree in Russian Studies from the Sorbonne. She currently lives and works in the United States and Paris, France.

All images courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, copyright © Lise Sarfati, all rights reserved.

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What inspired the series?

It is a series that connects houses in the countryside from the beginning of the 20th century with portraits of young people, mostly boys, whom I met in Moscow. There is no obvious connection between the photographs. It is not really a narrative story; it is more a story constructed by elements.

Still, the photographs go together despite having such different subjects. How did you come to work the architecture shots and portraits together?

The photographs are not related to storytelling but instead confront each other to create a questioning and dynamic that permits the viewer to have his or her own interior feelings.

What is your favorite subject to shoot: landscapes, architecture, people, something else entirely?

I never think about my favorite shots in terms of landscape, architecture, or people but I try all the time to find a language that reveals my feelings. So it could be any of these things. It doesn’t matter—what matters more is the concept that I have in my mind before I decide to do the series.

What are you working on next?

Next I have a show in Paris in Loft Sevigne during Paris Photo where I am going to exhibit my series “Mother and Daughter.”


TMN Editor Bridget Fitzgerald lives, works, and generally makes merry in San Francisco. More by Bridget Fitzgerald