Steve Nash, Curator of Archaeology and Rick Wicker, Museum Photographer
Monday, March 25th was our first full day of work, and what a day it was! We met our guide and translator, Irina, at 9:00 a.m. She helped us negotiate the complex metro system and find the State Gems Museum, or Samotsvety (http://gemmuseum.ru/?object=static_page&id=5&lang=eng) and provided much needed insights into working in Russia. We arrived at the Museum as planned at 10:00 a.m. sharp, and were quickly met by our contact, Dr. Igor Mikhailov, the Deputy Director of the Museum. Our photo gear arrived right on time at 10:30, and after unloading the gear in a light Russian snowfall, we had a formal meeting with Dr. Anvar Yusipov, Director of the Samotsvety, in which we outlined the course of our work for the week and answered a number of questions he had about the book we intend to write. When all was said and done, we were able to start photographing the sculptures shortly after noon and worked until dinnertime.
The first sculpture Rick shot is Organ Grinder (1967), which depicts a sad scene of peasant father and his barefoot son begging for money while playing a street organ. Rick’s photograph highlights detail on the boy, somewhat incongruously including a turquoise clasp on his collar. The boy sings while the father plays the hand organ.
Next up was Grandma and Grandpa (1963), one of Konovalenko’s classic early pieces. All previous photographs we had seen did not do justice to the piece; Rick’s photography brings out depth, texture, and detail that we think make the piece even more spectacular. Note also the Samotsvety’s catalog number on the leg of the bench, under the man on the left.
Old Souls (1974), also known as Old Bachelors, was next in line. Konovalenko made this piece after the 1973 exhibition at the Russian State Museum that made him famous, and therefore after he started working for the state geological ministry. Rick’s photograph emphasizes the detail in the old woman’s face, which is surprisingly less refined than most of the other faces that Konovalenko produced, and yet is still expressive and compelling.
Welcome! (1959) is another early piece, and includes a man and a boy welcoming people into their home. Rick’s photograph here shows detail in the man’s face.
Fishing (1966) shows a classic Konovalenko fishing scene. While doing the photography, Rick noticed a surprise—Konovalenko stamped his name in Cyrillic and the date of manufacture on the fishing pole, which helped us correct an error on the Samotsvety’s label, which listed the date as 1965. The “1966” is only about 3 mm long!
The Samotsvety staff has been fantastic, graciously making way for Rick’s extensive array of lights, computers, and cameras that we need to take such quality photographs. We are going back to the Museum later today and will work late into the night, for we cannot work during business hours. We look forward to updating you in tomorrow!
Steve and Rick