PHOTOGRAPHY
WRITING
PRODUCTION
Far away from home — Вдали от дома

Valery Katsuba

FARAWAY from HOME (excerpts)

 

  1. … and on clear and frosty nights, when the stars shone over the river and the smoke from the village stoves rose up in long straight pillars, they used to put on sheepskin coats and boots and to go out onto the river and when they reached the middle of the river, they lay down on the snow-covered ice, fell silent and watched the stars …

 

  1. … he looking at nature as it withered before the coming winter, nature that was so familiar and so beloved, and perhaps he did not want to leave the autumn plain, the sadness of which excited his soul, but however he sought the way back into his thoughts and feelings, he still could not find it …

 

  1. … low, fast clouds. There will surely be snow. The first snow this year …

 

  1. … at the end of the road there was a boat on the river. A sailor sat in it. He pushed off from shore, and the waves carried him to where the clear grey waters met the leaden clouds, into a world he did not know …

 

  1. … in those places it was raining and thus the green of the tall grasses and the foliage of the trees triumphed. There was no wind and raindrops fell evenly, sounding equally softly on the roofs of huts and the greenery of valleys and mountains …

 

  1. … and from there boats were leaving for the small islands. He went to one of them, where the shore was of white sand and the water was clear, so that the rays of the sun penetrating it became azure light …

 

  1. … the lonely traveller attracts attention, the desire to somehow give him aid, particularly if he looks like that one for whom they have waited so long in that particular part of the world …

 

  1. … observing the movements of her hands, the tilt of her head with its black hair always neatly pulled back …

 

9 .. … and on the other bank he found a hut – a wooden frame on column-stilts, covered with huge palm leaves; in it a bed, a table and a chair. In effect, everything he needed at that moment …

 

  1. … in those parts they did not see the point of solitude and diligently tried to find him a bride …

 

  1. … it was getting dark, and he was still sitting beneath a peasant shelter in the middle of the valley amidst the rice fields, listening to the rain. He did not send the letter. He did not even finish it …

 

  1. … and he left the rice valley, going from those places to the lands of Asia Minor and the Middle East, to where the moon is upside down and above it a star …

 

  1. … spring had finally begun in the mountains. The apricot trees bloomed, and in their wake the birch and chestnuts began to turn green. He found the same house. The mistress of the housed opened the door to him …

 

  1. … and it seemed that “tomorrow” had never come in those places …

 

  1. … on these shores, on the edge of the Old World, where the captain served, the earth seemed to disappear completely, revealing the ocean. And he splashes along the shore, wanting to talk about something. But the wind blows his words away and you understand only that the ocean knows other lands, other people and allows you to go and meet them. The more you look at the ocean, the stronger becomes the desire to accept its proposal …

 

  1. … there were two young men with him. Their features were clear and open, as were their words …

 

  1. …  and her song sounded softly amidst the rain that began to fall, a song perhaps regretting something, perhaps rejoicing …
  2. … that’s how it is with fire: it goes out, and then it suddenly flares up with renewed vigor, and the flame rises brighter and higher …

 

19 … why were not the words spoken? Is it because words at such moments are not needed? “Un pañuelo de silencio en la hora de partir” (a veil of silence at the time of parting), according to the custom of the Southern Old World.

 

  1. … and he went towards the ocean. And it turned out that he had everything that he needed now: a road and a headwind from the sea …

 

  1. … pale pink clouds, swaying slowly and smoothly, fell over the horizon, carried away by the sun, which in parting flooded the whole horizon with that same pale pink light, coloring with it the contours of ships sailing along the sea and even the sea itself …

 

  1. … and meanwhile the old man was talking about himself … and he saw the old man young again, as if he had known him then …

 

  1. … and is it true that there, where you are coming from, there are big towns, and the life there is good and there are many interesting people? …

 

  1. … before the village lay a field, in waves of tall green grass and modest northern flowers. The summer in those parts was short and flowers seemed to blossom overnight, filling the warm air with their scent…

25 … swallows settled on those shores of red sand. And if in the evenings they flew high up in the sky, then the night would most likely be starry, and the morning of the following day sunny and clear …

 

  1. … the inhabitants there were dark skinned, tall and slender. Their healthy bodies were like bamboo and were at the same time flexible, like vines …

 

  1. … kisses rich in taste ripened on their full, gutta-percha lips all year round beneath the bright sun …
  2. … meanwhile, the behaviour of the sea and the sky indicated that a hurricane was coming to the island …
  3. … on the edge of the desert by the shore of the sleepy sea …

 

  1. …he did not allow himself to doubt and, rising, ran his palm over his shoulders and chest, as if checking whether he was still whole …

 

  1. … and there on the peninsula, above the highest mountain there always hung a cloud, stretching towards the South, and they called it a «mantle» …

 

  1. … there are people among us for whom it is common to help those who have been shipwrecked. And these people are especially noticeable in distant lands… Or perhaps they have more to do there? … Or maybe they are simply heroes …

 

  1. … by the sea, on which there were almost no waves. In the regions where there is no rain, where the air is dry to transparency, and the dense sea lazily strikes the eternal sands …

 

  1. … the clear waters of the river were running quickly, and in the cool spring wind above it were the smells of bird cherry and young foliage blossoming on trees …

 

  1. … in those days when the sky lies upon the Northern city in snow clouds, its pastel-colored houses become invisible, merging with the clouds and the water …

 

  1. … wet snow was falling on his face and it was difficult to make out the city’s buildings and the ship standing at the mouth of the river …

 

  1. … and that was the peculiarity of young people. They did not indulge in sorrow for long. They always had sun, sea, dance and youth, and they seemed to hold themselves in, so as not to laugh with the happiness that overwhelmed them …

 

  1. … the cloud, heavy from below, gained lightness with height and strove to reach the middle of the sky. Approaching the sun, it turned pale pink. Then it covered up the sun. And in a moment both sea and sky became equal in colour …

 

  1. … in the darkness of the approaching night, the voices of fishermen were heard on the pier and the splashing of the oars of boats leaving for the sea …

 

  1. … in the late afternoon, windows and doors were opened wide and the wind blew through, bringing with it the sounds of an departing tropical day – the chirping of cicadas and the rustling of palm leaves …

 

  1. … — Do you have a house? — the peasants asked

— Not.

— Would you like one?

— Yes.

— And where?

— I would like a house by the sea, so that I could open the windows and see the water …

— And where is the sea that you would like to watch from the open window of your house? …

 

42 … as soon as he had any free time, he was taught to work, for which he was grateful many years later…

 

  1. … the floor in the captain’s house was tiled with azure painted brigantines, fishing schooners, storms, marvellous lands and other marine impressions …

 

  1. … and the little bird with white tips on ashen wings flew to the sea, to where the thunder wind blew and when the gusts became stronger, it only often flapped its wings more often, always remaining in the same place. And in her black dot-eyes one could see strength and determination to overcome the elements …

 

  1. … a damp ‘dust’ arose where the high waterfalls tumbled from on high, settling like dew on his clothes, hands and face …

 

  1. ​​… and when after a long hike he had absolutely no strength, suddenly a cart drove up in total silence, and stopped to offer help …

 

  1. … and in early spring, the same as many year ago in his childhood, there was still snow at the bottom of the tree trunks, but larks were already flying in the sky and on a hill among last year’s grass new green blades were already beginning to emerge…

 

  1. … from his childhood home he could walk to the lake, which slowly and over a long time gained courage in order to become a sea somewhere far away …

 

  1. … here at the edge of the earth shine the brightest stars, and day and night you can hear how the mighty ocean, which has its own, separate existence, carries its waters to the bottom of the snowy peaks. Its vicinity, like that of the high mountains, which meet the sea with streams from glaciers, made clear the eyes of the inhabitants of the edge of the earth, and their conversations became like a song …

 

  1. … the sea and the sky filled the house’s windows, competing in conveying the depth, weightlessness and delicacy of colours. And the longer the sailor peered into the ocean, the stronger became the desire to accept its offer once more and swim in the waves to where the sky continues. The south wind knocked upon the window …

 

 

Валерий Кацуба

Вдали от Дома (фрагменты)

 

  1. … а в ясные и морозные ночи, когда над рекой светили звезды и дым из деревенских печей шел вверх длинными прямыми столбами, они, надев тулупы и валенки, выходили на реку и, дойдя до середины реки, ложились на укрытый снегом лед, замолкали и наблюдали звезды …

 

  1. … смотрел на увядающую перед наступавшей зимой природу, так знакомую и любимую и, возможно, не хотел оставлять осеннюю равнину, печаль которой волновала душу, однако, как не старался отыскать обратную дорогу в чувствах и мыслях своих, тогда ее не находил …
  2. … низкие, быстрые тучи. Должно пойдет снег. Первый снег в этом году …
  3. … в конце дороги на реке стояла лодка. В нее и сел моряк. Оттолкнулся от берега, и волны понесли его туда, где прозрачные серые воды встречались со свинцовыми тучами – в мир, который он не знал …
  4. … в местах тех шли дожди и посему торжествовала зелень в высоких травах и в листве деревьев. Там не было ветров и капли дождей падали ровно, всегда одинаково мягко звуча на крышах хижин и зелени долин и гор …
  5. … и оттуда уходили лодки к маленьким островам. На один из них он и отправился, где берег из белого песка, а вода прозрачная и лучи солнца, проникая в нее, превращаются в лазурный свет …
  6. … одинокий путник привлекает внимание и ему хочется в чем-то помочь, тем более, если он похож на того единственного, кото так долго ждали в тех краях …
  7. … наблюдая движения ее рук , наклон головы с всегда аккуратно убранными назад черными волосами …

9.. … и на том берегу он нашел хижину  – деревянный каркас на ножках-столбиках, покрытый огромными пальмовыми листьями, в нем кровать, стол и стул. Собственно все, что сейчас и нужно …

  1. … в тех краях в одиночестве не видели смысла и старательно пытались найти ему невесту …
  2. … темнело, а он, по-прежнему, сидел в крестьянском навесе посреди долины в рисовых полях, прислушиваясь к дождю. Он не отправил письмо. Да и не закончил его …
  3. … и оставил рисовую долину, отправившись из тех мест в земли Малой Азии и Ближнего Востока, туда, где месяц вверх тормашками и над ним звезда …
  4. … в горах наконец началась весна. Зацвели абрикосы, а вслед за ними стали зеленеть березы и каштаны. Он нашел тот дом. Хозяйка ему дом открыла …
  5. … и, казалось, что «завтра» в тех местах не наступало …
  6. … на этих берегах, на краю Старого Света, где служил капитан, земля словно исчезает совсем, открывая перед собой океан. И он плещется о берег желая рассказать о чем-то. Но слова его уносит ветер и понимаешь только, что океан знает другие земли, других людей и предлагает отправиться на встречу с ними. И чем дольше вглядываешься в океан, тем сильнее становится желание принять его предложение …
  7. … в компании с ним были двое молодых мужчин. Черты их лиц были ясными, такими же как и их слова …
  8. … и песня ее звучала тихо в начинающемся дожде, то ли сожалея о чем-то, то ли чему-то радуясь …
  9. … так бывает с огнем: погаснет , а затем вдруг разгорается с новой силой и краски ярче и выше поднимается пламя …

19 … почему не сказаны были  слова? Потому ли, что слова в такие минуты не нужны? «Un pañuelo de silincio en la hora de partir» (платок молчания в час расставания), — согласно обычаю южных земель  …

  1. … и он ушел в сторону океана. И оказалось, что у него было все, что необходимо сейчас: дорога и встречный ветер с моря …
  2. … бледно-розовые облака, медленно и плавно покачиваясь, падали за горизонт, увлекаемые за собой солнцем, которое на прощание вспыхнула на всем небосклоне все тем же бледно-розовым светом, окрасив им же контуры плывущих по морю кораблей и само море …
  3. … и меж тем старик рассказывал о себе … и он увидел старика юным, будто знал его тогда …
  4. … а ведь верно, что там, откуда ты путь держишь, есть большие города, и в них хорошая жизнь и много интересных людей ?..
  5. … перед деревней волнами лежало поле с высокой зеленой травой и неброскими северными цветами. Лето в тех краях было коротким и цветы распускались словно в одночасье, наполняя ароматами теплый воздух …

25 … в тех берегах из красного песка селились ласточки. И если вечерами они летали высоко в небе, то скорее всего ночь будет звездной, а утро следующего дня солнечным и ясным …

  1. … жители там были темными кожей, высокими и стройными. Их тела в силе уподоблялись бамбуку и одновременно были гибкими, как лианы …
  2. … на их полных, гуттаперчевых губах под ярким солнцем круглый год созревали поцелуи, богатые вкусами …
  3. … меж тем поведение моря и неба свидетельствовало о том, что на остров шел ураган …
  4. … у края пустыни на берегу сонного моря …
  5. … не позволил себе сомневаться и, встав, провел ладонью по плечам и груди, словно проверяя остался ли он цел …
  6. … и там на полуострове над самой высокой горой всегда висело облако, вытягиваясь в сторону Юга и его называли «покровом» …
  7. … среди нас есть люди, для которых помощь терпящему крушение — дело обычное. И эти люди в краях далеких особенно заметны… Или там у них больше дел ?.. А может это просто герои …
  8. …… у моря, на котором почти не было волн. В краях, где нет дождей, где сухой до прозрачности воздух, и густое море лениво ударяется о вечные пески…
  9. … прозрачные воды реки бежали быстро, а в прохладном весеннем ветре над ней были запахи черемухи и распускавшейся на деревьях молодой листвы …
  10. … в те дни, когда небо ложится на Северный город снежными тучами, его дома пастельных цветов становятся почти невидимыми, сливаясь с тучами и водой …
  11. … мокрый снег падал на лицо и все было трудно разглядеть дома в городе и стоявший в устье реки корабль …
  12. … и в том была особенность молодых людей. Печали предавались они не долго. С ними всегда оставалась солнце, море, танец и молодость, и они, казалось сдерживали себя, чтобы не рассмеяться от переполнявшего их счастья.
  13. … туча, тяжелая снизу, с высотой обретала легкость и стремилась дотянуться до середины неба. Приближаясь к солнцу, она окрасилась в бледно-розовый цвет. Затем закрыла собой солнце. И спустя мгновенья море и небо сравнялись цветами …
  14. … в наступившей ночи были слышны голоса рыбаков на причале и плеск весел, уходивших в море лодок …
  15. … ближе к вечеру настежь открывали окна и двери и там гулял ветер, приносивший с собой звуки уходящего тропического дня – стрекотание цикад и шелест пальмовых листьев …
  16. … — У тебя есть дом? – спросили крестьяне

— Нет.

— А хотелось бы?

— Да.

— А где?

— Хотелось бы мне дом на море, чтобы окна открыть и море видеть…

— И где это море, которое ты хотел бы видеть из открытого окна своего дома? …

 

42а … как только появлялось свободное время его приучали трудиться и за то, много лет спустя он испытывал благодарность …

 

  1. … пол в доме капритана был выложен плиткой с расписанными по ней лазурью бригантинами, рыбацкими шхунами, штормами, дивными землями и другими морскими впечатлениями …

 

  1. … а маленькая птица с белыми кантами на пепельных крыльях летела к морю, туда, откуда дул грозовой ветер и как только порывы ветра становились сильнее, она лишь чаще взмахивала крыльями, оставаясь при этом на одном и том же месте. И в ее черные глазках –точках была видна сила и решительность преодолеть стихию …
  2. … от падавших с огромной высоты водопадов в воздух поднималась водная пыль, оседая словно роса на его одежде, руках и лице …
  3. … и когда после долгого похода совсем не было сил, вдруг совершенно беззвучно подъехала и остановилась телега с лошадью, чтобы предложить помощь …
  4. … у стволов деревьев ранней весной еще бывало лежал снег, но в небе уже летали жаворонки и на холме среди прошлогодней травы начинала свежей зеленью всходить новая …
  5. … от родного дома пешком можно было выйти к озеру, которое медленно и очень долго набиралось смелости, чтобы где-то совсем уж далеко стать морем …
  6. … здесь на краю земли светят самые яркие звезды и днем и ночью слышно как несет к подножью заснеженных вершин свои воды могучий океан, живущий сам по себе. Его соседство, как и соседство высоких гор, которые ручьями ледников встречаются с морем, наверное, и сделало взгляды жителей края земли ясными, а разговоры их стали словно песня …
  7. … окна дома заполнили собой море и небо, соревнуясь в передаче глубины, невесомости и деликатности цветов. И чем дольше он всматривался в океан, тем сильнее становилось желание вновь принять его предложение и поплыть на волнах туда, где продолжается небо. В окно стучался Южный ветер …

 

 

 

 

FAR AWAY from HOME

 

Far Away from Home is a story in pictures. The main character is a sailor who once had a house, a native land and love. Love that he could not keep, love that became like a shipwreck. Thereafter for many years life tosses the sailor onto foreign shores. In this vast world the sailor thinks that somewhere there in the distance he will find his true happiness, his home. As he swims from one bank to the other, however, he begins to realize that his journey, filled with the temptations of unknown lands, is in fact an ordeal. In his wanderings he gets to know many lands and many people whose aspirations start to remind him of those of his native land. He arrives at an understanding of the unity and integrity of the world and hope is born. The sailor’s escape from himself eventually starts to become a road towards himself, a road home.

 

 

There are 50 photos in the project (colour and b/w), format 100 x 100, 80 х 80, 50 х 50 см.

The photographs are accompanied by a short story.

 

2004–2014

The stories behind an instant

 

I met photographer Valery Katusba in Merida, Yucatan, a couple of years back; by chance a mutual friend introduced us after the opening of an exhibition in a gallery.  He appeared introspective  and acted with caution when I asked him if he could show his work, which he carried in an elegant leather portfolio under his arm.

 

Upon viewing a few black and white prints, my sensation was that his work portrayed absence: the models engaged in poses that were no part of living experience but emblems of ideas; he portrayed the lives of people who posed for him, looking into his camera being like visions.  Was he looking for classic perfection in the prima ballerina, or searching for the timeless splendor of male bodies in the portrait of Russian Olympic wrestlers? It struck me that he knew well that these were aesthetic values that had become a souvenir of the past, the failure of contemporary culture to come to terms with the pursuit of high standards in art.

 

Katsuba was born and raised in Belarus, trained as a sailor and is a photographer by heart; My first impression was that he seemed reluctant, but he accepted my suggestion that we look at his photographs right away.  He laid out a group of them on a window sill and began to handle them like gallerists do: using a pair of black velvet gloves. He took the work into his hands and raised the print at eye level in front of my eyes, hiding his face behind it, as if he was presenting a musical score.  His voice conveyed in highly articulated Spanish the tale behind the work.

 

As the improvised show came to an end, I realized that most of the work was the result of a deliberately staged mis an scène. Undoubtedly, the photographer had learned the tools of his  trade from fashion photography, with its conscious handling of lights, pose, wardrobe, but no make-up in sight. He was looking for real life characters, people whose feelings he knew, individuals whose lives mattered. The dancers were my favorites, I had such a rush when looking at the white shrouds, the light passing through the veils, the veins showing below the skin. Precise and unadorned, those bodies were fitted to receiving the soft touch of light.

 

I knew photographers back in Mexico City that had a sensitivity to canonized beauty in the way that it is captured in classic architecture and sculpture. People like Guillermo Kahlo, father of Frida, and Katy Horna, the Hungarian surrealist who adopted Mexico as her own home during the 1950s. I discovered that Katsuba shared with them the same standards when, at a later date, I saw him for the first time shooting a group of indigenous ball players in the courtyard of the San Carlos Museum,[1] a national treasure trove  that specializes in visual arts of the 16th to 19th centuries.

 

Shortly after that photo session, Katusba and I seriously discussed what Baroque meant. On one hand, it seemed to me that the term baroque  referred to an aesthetic  whose aim is to capture and represent movement in architecture and sculpture, two main features of Katsuba’s photographs of athletes, modern dancers and life drawing models. On the other hand, for him, the tensions in the bodies that characterized his body of work reflected classic concerns with proportion, structure and stability, for which the art of staged photography is particularly well suited.  I consider that staging a narrative expressing the avatars of our mortal coil is part of the larger drive in his oeuvre.

 

 

 

 

Turning life into pictures

 

Few photographers in the last century have attempted to use the camera from both sides: from behind the lens and posing in front of them.  By eliciting  stories of personal pain, or assuming other people’s lives, or experiencing the feelings, the intimate works of  Francesca Woodman, the candid shots of Cindy Sherman or the outrageous revelations of Pierre Molinier, these artists have transformed photography into a genre different from self-portraiture, where the medium has been given a credibility  far from narrative photography,  due to the fictional presence of the author.

 

The works in this book (Faraway from Home) are witness to this serious and confident attempt to produce a document, a logbook, of the author’s voyages around the world. Taken by the lives of people he has befriended, Katsuba kept a visual diary, a bizarre one, where he makes himself a character by posing for the camera in emblematic situations: the breakup, the welcome, or the confrontation, to name a few.

 

A leap of his imagination allowed the artist to connect a series of shots and turn them into a narrative, connecting the dots on the maps of Eurasia, America and Africa.   The result is captivating and puzzling because it pushes the viewer into creating a personal visual tale, joining the particular with the universal, the inner world with the external landscape. From the very first time he showed me the sequence I asked him how he managed to produce an epic of such scale in more than ten years of sailing through the world, like a modern day Ulysses.

 

Katsuba is reluctant to say that the compilation of that work has anything to do with himself; rather, he has attempted to re-construct a tale of human separation through  a series of rites of passage, from the land into the sea, following rivers through mountains, from the dessert to the wetlands. Port cities and inland towns are the natural settings for his own performances.

It is evident that he plays the leading role in the cast, and that his character is also the witness to a passion play that involves the emotions of a life’s  journey.  Again, I could disagree with his perception of the whole and concur in some of the particulars. I read these photographs in a different sequence: where a decision made by a character takes him to another realm, which occurs simultaneously, in another space frame.  The choice to capture the world results in a grid of numerous possibilities, reminding  us of the mirroring effect: one sees the lives of certain others as a reflection of one’s own.

 

During our time together, I have been able to notice how Katsuba himself changes from being himself into being one with others. This is more visible when he directs his models into performing for the camera. Somehow, the artist is capable of turning into  actors the camel shepherds  in the sand dunes in the Arabian dessert or the young mother straying on the seafront in Buenos Aires.  The result is captivating, for we know how difficult is to get a candid pose for us in front of the camera, and how easily we fail to hide our true emotions in a snapshot. But Valery Katsuba seems to be perfectly suited to the task of representation and, if I may say so, impersonation of those he has known by heart.

There is also the question of peering into peoples’ existence, usually the job of a photojournalist documenting a story; although this is far from the intentions of our photographer, there is indeed something in his gaze that brings the feeling of voyeurism in some of those images, where the intimacy of the scene is broken by the intrusion of the camera; for instance, the picture of a woman kneeling in a pond or the image of the sailor confronting himself by the sea. This self-portrait, by the way, is the last image in the book, but it could also be the first one; whether it is a reflection on personal history or a longing for a future, we can never be certain.

Katusba reveals in the book his talent as a storyteller. He is, no doubt about it, the sailor who has trailed the camera from Belarus to Chile, from Istanbul to Bangkok; the interloper and the witness of intimacy, the recorder of alternative worlds connected through his eye. His oeuvre reveals the stories behind the moment we all share in our memory.

 

Jose Springer

Yucatan; winter, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] This photography session later became part of the exhibition Valery Katsuba, Photographer, held at Museo San Carlos, November 2018-April 2019, curated by the author.

ВДАЛИ ОТ ДОМА        

 

«Вдали от Дома» – повествование в фотографиях. Главному герою – моряку – даны дом, родина, любовь. Любовь, которую он не сумел сохранить, что становится своеобразным «кораблекрушением». После чего многие годы жизнь «выбрасывает» главного героя на другие берега. Мир большой и моряку представляется, что где-то вдали и находится его настоящая жизнь, его дом. Однако, переплывая от одного берега к другому, он начинает понимать, что его путешествие, наполненное соблазнами незнакомых земель, – по сути, мытарства. И в них он познает другие земли, других людей, стремления которых все чаще начинают напоминать ему чаяния его родной земли. Он постигает целостность мира, и рождается надежда, что побег моряка «от самого себя» в итоге обернется дорогой к себе, дорогой к дому.

 

 

В проекте 50 фотография (цвет и ч/б), формат 100 х 100 см, 80 х 80 см, 50 х 50 см Фотографии сопровождает текст-повесть.

2004-2014

 

 

© 2021 V. Katsuba
Made in - Petr Papasov