Publisher – Scalo, Illustrated Edition, Hardback [1999]

Boris Mikhailov played a massive part when it came to researching during my photographic studies. I will state that he is and will always be one of my most inspirational photographers. My mother bought me the ‘Case History’ book back in my final year but I’ve come to realise  just how much I took this hardback for granted. The content itself is stupefying with images that just changed my perception of ‘documentary’ photography within the first few glances. The main element of the book that I adore is the way it tells the story, it’s often hard to get this right with a photography orientated book as just the placing of just one wrong image can ruin the flow and interaction a reader see’s and has. Mikhailov manages to capture every hidden raw detail of the Ukraine, a place that has proved imperative for his work. It’s difficult to sum up quite how I feel about this book, it’s shaped and helped me in so many ways, I’d go as far as to say maybe it made me mature at college, but who knows. I have included the synopsis below.

‘Boris Mikhailov, whose “Unfinished Dissertation” was published in 1998, focuses in “Les Miserables” on what he believes is the result of the breakup of the former Soviet Union. Though Mikhailov considers the conditions of his particular place of residence for over 50 years crucial to his work, he is not providing a recollection of the specific history of Kharkov, Ukraine. Rather, he brings out the “condition humaine” in this city characterized by industry and factories, by newly installed Coca Cola billboards as well as socialist architecture. Kharkov provides the backdrop for Mikhailov’s moving portraits describing the decay of both social structures and individual lives. We witness street kids taking drugs, adults in search of food, trying to re-install their social self by cleaning their bodies in the artist’s own apartment. Despite devastating poverty, the women and men in Mikhailov’s images look back at us with great dignity. Their eyes express an unbroken will to survive in a social system that has broken down completely. Mikhailov depicts the harshness of everyday life in a society not as far away from ours as we might think.’

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