Olga Chernysheva’s On Duty 2007 consists of eleven large, black and white photographs of employees of the Moscow underground transport system, wearing uniforms and severe demeanours that seem to hark back to the Soviet era. Each photograph is cropped tightly so as to capture the attendant sitting in the booth that forms their working environment, with the subject sat in three-quarters profile at the centre of the composition. The traditional silver gelatin printing process that Chernysheva has adopted for these photographs, together with their monumental scale, lends the images an air of solemnity, and gives the sitters in each image the almost sculptural presence of portrait busts. A number of the photographs are shot through the glass window of the booth, so that reflections of the surroundings and passers-by are made visible. In doing so, Chernysheva creates what critic and curator Viktor Misiano has described as a rigorous ‘geometry of gazes’ (Misiano 2010, p.231). The subjects, most of whom are women, sit in their subterranean booths in a state of perpetual readiness. They appear attentive, with their gaze glancing outward, but also immersed in their own thoughts.
Originally trained as an animator, Chernysheva uses film and photography to deal with humble, everyday subjects. Her background in animation has resulted in an approach that treats all images, whether static or moving, as ‘animated’ in some way. These two categories frequently blur within her work, resulting in photographs that look like film stills, and films that unfold so slowly as to seem photographic rather than filmic (see, for example, Russian Museum 2003–5, Tate T13406).
Boris Groys, Olga Chernysheva: Works 2000–2008, exhibition catalogue, Gallery Volker Diehl, Berlin and Diehl + Gallery One, Moscow 2009.
Viktor Misiano, ‘Motion Studies’, Artforum, March 2010, vol.48, no.7, pp. 226–31.