1960 - 1970s
Yuri Levin, who since 1957 presented his works at the first photographic exhibitions held in the Republic of Armenia, is one of the more exceptional figures of Armenian artistic photography. We do not know when and where this photographer of Russian origin began to work in the medium, but Levin's published works reveal an artist who appeared on the scene with his own fully-formed personal style and individual perception of photographic representation. Judging from his known works, Levin worked only as an independent artist and participated primarily at republican and all-union exhibitions devoted to art photography.
In the subjects addressed by Levin, the relationship between humans and nature is dominant and becomes a source for metaphorical and philosophical reflections. The tendency to generalize phenomena and bring them to a plane of metaphysical contemplation is clear from titles such as ‘The Waiting’, ‘The Past’, ‘Troubled Waters’ and ‘Youth’. The brisk expressiveness and extremely sharp fragmentation of those images were new in Armenian photography, dominated as it was at the time mostly by literary and anecdotal approaches. In contrast, Levin's photographs often avoid contextual or psychological specificity, emphasising instead the aesthetic or emotive condition of their subjects. As the photographer Andranik Kochar noted, "for Levin, laconism has become a target and technical solutions are tools for the authorial concept or, more precisely, the presentation of thereof." (1)
While it is difficult to make a fully balanced opinion in regards to Levin’s artistic intentions since his photographs have reached us only in through reproductions, even in that form, the experimental and detailed ‘finishing’ of his prints is most obvious. Intending to emphasize the nature of the photograph as an autonomous artwork with their aesthetic qualities, these images often strive to achieve the status of graphical prints and drawings. These tactics were typical of the photographic developments during Khruschev’s ‘Thaw’ in the early 1960s, which saw photographers attempting to divest their works of documentary’s functionalism and return to the arena of creative freedom. In this regard, Levin's photographs were crucial for the development of local photography in Armenia as they testified to multiple, as well as entirely subjective ways and methods of seeing and representing reality.
1) Andranik Kochar. ‘Khosum en Yuri Levini Gortsery’ [‘Yuri Levin's Works Speak’, in Armenian’, Garun, no.7, 1967, p. 68
USSR, Armenia, ArmSSR
(anonymous). 'Yazykom Grafiki' ['In the Language of Graphical Arts', in Russian ], Sovetskoe Foto, no.7, 1967, pp.38-39
Kochar, Andranik. ‘Khosum en Yuri Levini Gortsery’ [‘Yuri Levin's Works Speak’, in Armenian], Garun, no.7, 1967, pp.66-70