Niels Ackerman & Sebastien Gobert: Looking for Lenin

Cloitre Saint-Trophime, Arles; 03/07/17 to 24/09/17

Just in case the premise isn’t self-explanatory: a photographer and a journalist travelled around Ukraine seeking out decommissioned statues of Lenin, purged as part of the country’s ‘decommunisation’.

I expected this to be a straightforward typology-driven documentary project, maybe a little quirky – but was really quite impressed in the end. I like its definition in the blurb as being “halfway between documentary and symbolism”, as several of the images can be interpreted as metaphors for the fall of communism: Lenin is subjected to various indignities from decapitation, overpainting in garish colours, crammed into storage, and in one case converted to Darth Vader.

Main takeaway

Documentary doesn’t have to be serious/worthy, or have a linear narrative, or just be a neutral chronicle; it can embrace the visual language possibilities of photography and transmit an idea rather than just ‘tell a story’.