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Book of the Week: A Pick by Jason Langer


Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Jason Langer Jason Langer selects Proverbs by Gregori Maiofis as Book of the Week.
Proverbs. By Gregori Maiofis. 
Nazraeli Press, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Jason Langer who has selected Proverbs by Gregori Maiofis from Nazraeli Press.

"With Gregori Maiofis' Proverbs we have been given fascination and delight, opportunity and challenge.

Nazraeli Press has just published the first monograph from this 44-year-old Russian photographer who creates bromoil and Van Dyke prints (sometimes adding drawing and collage) in his native home of St. Petersburg. There are 26 elegant reproductions in this 11x14” black silk-wrapped hardcover book.

Peter Fetterman, Maifois’ print sale representative in Los Angeles has written a short preface for the book stating that although the world is awash in images, Maiofis’ struck him like an arrow through the heart. Indeed. There are many captivating qualities in Maiofis’ photographs.

Throughout this monograph we encounter a menagerie of beasts — some wild, some domesticated. Our characters include: a bear, lion, monkey, vulture, elephant, dog and boar. Most but not all of the photographs here are illustrations of both eastern and western proverbs. I venture to say this convention is used as subterfuge to allegorize ideas of much greater importance. 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,' illustrated on page 16 shows a chained monkey placing a ballot into a ballot box via a forced hand protruding from a dark background. This is not an image of a monkey acting human. This is considered and provocative code for overt and sinister power.

Our main protagonist is a brown bear who experiences the fantastic scenes Maiofis has composed. Through him we are enchanted, unnerved, and morally and politically challenged. There are a handful of human actors: a ballerina, businessman, artist, circus trainer, the young and the old. Each scene is pregnant with wit, irony and symbolism that is at once personal and universal.

Maiofis' images occupy a unique place between the fleeting magic of the instant and the predictability of the premeditated. An image made in an abandoned St. Petersburg apartment of a brown bear sitting as audience to a ballerina in mid-arabesque could only manifest from Maiofis' imagination and undertaking. The ballerina reaches out to the bear — or beckons him. He acknowledges her, waves to her or tries to touch her. Perhaps he is unable to leave the chair. Or refuses to. If he did, he might dance with her. Or eat her. The scene is simultaneously joyous and witty, despairing and bleak. There is harmony and danger; masculine and feminine. There is the Russian state with all its brutality and Russian art with its miraculous brilliance and elegance. Can we have one without the other? Are they inextricable? Is this a reuniting of two powerful forces separated long ago or a portentous and inevitable catastrophe?

Maiofis' Proverbs offers us an opportunity for amusement and emboldens us to be fulfilled. It gives us rich layers of metaphor and challenges us to let the artist set us on a path of discovery and leave us to investigate and interpret symbols for ourselves. Beauty, danger, selfishness, impermanence, animalism, musicality, mirth, connection, manipulation, eroticism, horror, mystery and delight are all expressed here with richness and humor. Intelligence, hope and enthusiasm for life and photography run throughout this book of proverbs. Better late than never."—Jason Langer


Proverbs. By Gregori Maiofis. Nazraeli Press, 2015.
Proverbs. By Gregori Maiofis. Nazraeli Press, 2015.


Best known for his psychological and noirish visions of contemporary urban life, Jason Langer’s work has been featured in numerous international photographic exhibitions and publications. Langer has published three monographs: Secret City, Possession and Jason Langer: Twenty Years. “Langer’s [images] urge us not to only linger and dwell and search for significance, they are evidence that there are countless miracles to be seen.” —Conor Risch, Photo District News, 2015.



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