British journal of photography
“Taking pictures is fascinating, but for me, it’s not enough,” says Alexandra Catiere, who describes herself as an image maker who “draws with the light”
While most photographers value their time behind the camera, Alexandra Catiere’s love for the craft lives in the darkroom. “For me, the beauty of a picture doesn’t lie in the beauty of the subject matter,” she says. “I’m more interested in pushing the boundaries of printmaking, and how far you can go from reality.”
Catiere always knew she wanted to become an artist, and in photography found a craft that was both independent and experimental. “Taking pictures is fascinating, but for me, it’s not enough,” she says. When she was 21, she built a darkroom in the bathroom of her house in Minsk, Belarus, where she spent most of her time developing photographs of still lifes, seeing how far she could push a gelatin surface.
Behind the Glass is Catiere’s latest experiment. It was put together in collaboration with the designers and editors at Chose Commune, and has been shortlisted for this years Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook of the Year Award. Catiere wanted the book to be considered as an object in its own right, rather than a catalogue of images to flick through. Each double page opens up to reveal another image, forcing the viewer to take time consuming it.
“Sometimes we rush too much,” says Catiere. “This book makes you stop, and plunge deep into another universe, because each page gives you something different.”
Catiere’s process is all about time and patience too. Fascinated by the accidents that can happen in the darkroom, she spends most of her working there. Recently she has been experimenting with photograms, using grass and pebbles to create “paintings with light”.
Behind the Glass combines the photograms with images from recent projects and uses portraits as a thread to tie them all together. The portraits come from Catiere’s first photography project of the same name, shot in Minsk and then Moscow in 2005 and 2006. It was the project that got her work into many shows and publications, including The New Yorker, but has remained unpublished until now.
In 2005, while studying in New York, Catiere returned to Minsk for two weeks with the intention of creating a body of work about the city. “Nothing touched me,” she says. “I was quite frustrated because I knew time was running out.” One day, as her bus pulled up, Catiere caught a glance at its passengers, staring out of the window, their faces framed by the frost and snow settling on the glass. “It was beautiful,” she says, “these faces were so familiar to me, they were almost a part of me because it was in my city, my bus.”
Catiere waited at the bus stop with her 35mm camera, taking pictures of the oblivious passengers as the traffic moved past. “The look is honest and strong. It’s the natural look of a stranger, just being inside their own mind.”
Written by Marigold Warner