Marin Dimeski Photography

 

Marin Dimeski’s work in the field of photography (since the early 1970s) already forms a comprehensive series of answers to the challenges of this medium and the time and space in the context of which he expresses himself. Even though he has been professionally active and highly competent in a number of photographic disciplines (chiefly linked with the fine arts and cultural heritage), an element which unites his entire work over the past decades has been his personal affiliation with life photography. Reading this, some younger visitors to this website may get the impression that Marin Dimeski respects only established idioms and expressions. It is, however, important to bear in mind that this inclination and the resulting photographs have their origins in a specific time and space (the Republic of Macedonia was a part of the former Yugoslavia) in which the authorities always tried to exert some kind of control, maybe not too aggressively, but nonetheless a visible control over what they thought could generate specific images about society and the life of people. In such a context and unique urban environment, Dimeski formed his own model of expression based on the feeling of ‘existential uneasiness,’ inspired by the world he lived in. The formal premises he applied in his photographs from this period can be regarded as methods of ‘aestheticization,’ or creation of idioms that expressed his standpoint. They involved motifs from city suburbs, aiming to discover the photogenic qualities of social marginality, and did not insist on social commitment. There were also motifs focussing on members of specific ethnic groups or minorities, but Dimeski’s aim was not to deal with the scene’s ethnic layers. Working with great concentration in a photographic style close to the contemporary ‘black wave,’ Dimeski developed a specific form of testimony: documents that aimed to join and articulate different dimensions of reality. The photographs of this period achieved an exceptional compositional balance of scene elements and an ‘aestheticization’ of urban suburbs, whilst retaining the scale of existential tension and oozing sincere sympathy with the motif. His photographs were in fact typical examples of works which aimed to be disturbing not only by the portrayal of social and ethnic misery or rejection, but also by demonstrating psychological anxiety and hopelessness, transcending the rhetoric of expected sympathy. The series of urban landscapes from this period followed the same direction, showing no human figures, but reflecting similar general tendencies. With a refined feeling for the period in which he worked, Dimeski produced a series of pieces which, after many decades, continue to captivate us with the innocence of their approach and his courage in resolving identified problems of the moment.

His subsequent activity as a photographer was characterized by careful exploration of changing views in photography and its relations to society and the media, and particularly of the new, non-chemical photographic techniques. His (black-and-white) photographs from the 1980s and 1990s revealed a careful generation of expressive models, suggesting a still not fully defined but clear position of changing relationships. The ‘sculptural’ model that followed was full of nuanced narratives that saw and interpreted the world as a fragmentary set of events, #ff0000 states and a multitude of characters. The feeling of heroic uniqueness of the photographic act began slowly giving way to nuanced relationships with reality. Dimeski’s photographs from this period: the project of photographing Nuremberg and his portraits (from his 1990 and 1993 exhibitions in Skopje) formed two series of works that conveyed their ‘sculptural’ and narrative message to the observer, in full interaction with all displayed pieces. The photographer’s position was built in the empty room between the photographs shown and the general approach to the intended project. Dimeski did not pretend, for example, that he knew Nuremberg very well or that he aimed to study fully the individuals he had portrayed. He chose the position of a silent ‘recorder’ of scenes he had singled out, offering various possibilities to the spectator to read them carefully. This reading can, but not necessarily, lead to conclusions of a general character. There are fragments whose totality Dimeski did not intend to generalize within a single dimension. It goes without saying that this endeavour would have been futile without his exceptional feeling for detail and for capturing scenes with elements through which he can fully express himself, establishing what we may call ‘a refined balance.’ As far as these different periods are concerned, we should mention two constants: his attitude towards the photo-print, and his child portraits.

Photographic printmaking helps in the articulation of one’s personal expression. Dimeski is very careful and creative in this respect. Through the balance of mutual tonal relationships, through highlighting or mitigation, carefully, with no conspicuous traces of the specific method used, he directs the trajectory of the viewer’s glance that is supposed to ‘read’ the photograph. He is a photographer who aims to achieve a sophisticated formal coherence of his work. His striving towards perfection of photographic expression presupposes a rare dictate, genuine meticulousness, in planning and carrying out all the necessary procedures: from the selection of the motif to the cultivated composition of the scene with accurately adjusted parameters of photographing, to the ‘filigree’ processing in the laboratory and printmaking, in order to achieve the best possible aesthetic effect. The graphic stylization of Dimeski’s black-and-white photography (in the 1970s) was characterized by emphatic black-and-white contrasts in specific sections of his photographs (an effect which he masterfully polished during the process of printmaking) and by a large-grain texture which gave his photographs a gracious ‘coating’ of visual structure. In his laboratory he later opted for relationships that displayed less contrast, with greater respect for the information found in the negative, although in this approach, too, the artist tended to compose carefully the tonal relationship so that he could give specific directions to the glance which was supposed to ‘slide’ along the photograph.

I have singled out several of Dimeski’s child portraits in the street from these periods; this is my personal preference only and I do not think they form a distinct whole in his work.

My personal impression is that while he is able to achieve maximum concentration during the photographing stage, Dimeski shows an ‘easygoing’ approach to the child’s world in several respects: his approach is often social, sometimes painfully existential, occasionally comic, and sometimes it is focussed on the vastness of the child’s excitement with the game as well as their natural beauty. It is possible that the roots of this approach can be traced back to the neorealist method, highly influential at the time of his artistic formation.

In the late 1990s, inspired by a large art project, Dimeski began working on a new motif in his work, the landscape. As a photographer with exceptional urban sensibility, he probably needed a long period of study and analysis of approaches to this genre and of his personal stance to nature. In the unpredictable game of coincidences and maturity, his landscapes showed the same working premises as his new ‘street’ photographs: these were in a constant search for the mild approach towards what we can call the ‘silent language of nature.’ Dimeski shot his landscapes striving to discover the motifs that would help him find that unique airy atmosphere and those rare moments when light has exceptional qualities. With their compositional peacefulness, as separate pieces or as a whole, these landscapes epitomize the magnificence of nature. The penetration of sunrays through grey clouds, the daylight atmosphere, and most of all, the uniqueness of those rare moments of light – all these are experienced and presented as a manifestation of Dimeski’s need to find his epiphany.

After the shattering of photography’s chemical foundations and its still #ff0000 position and needs triggered by the changed relationship to the world and to art, Dimeski has shown great wisdom while following new developments in this field: he forgets nothing, but remains open to everything. I cannot predict what will happen in the future, but Dimeski’s activity over the past ten years has been focussed on a quiet and careful re-examination of his own experiences as well as their concentrated and relaxed activation and articulation in harmony with his and our expectations.

 

Lazo Plavevski, Art Historian, Museum of The City of Skopje

 

“In Passing”  Story

 

Even though the modern world now seems to be within arm’s reach and full of profitable, expendable goods as far as most media and services are concerned, yes, there are moments when we look in amazement at this world and its incredible beauty through the eyes of an experienced observer. The speed of movement may have relativized the dimensions of space, but our somewhat satiated perception still seems to be obsessed by images of fairytale lands lying ‘over seven seas and seven mountains.’ In these images you will smell an occasional old fragrance, feel the noise of the wind or the dust of the road. These are the images that can capture a particular feeling, an individual experience, amidst the process of widespread globalization. Transposed into an image, this individual experience resists consumer society globalization and, instead of being just another attractive piece of information, prepares the ground for a more complex emotional experience.

 

Although his photographs have definite topographic features, Marin Dimeski does not care much to uphold them in his work. He rather enters into an indirect dialogue with the environment, with the urban or natural landscape in which he finds reflections of the sun, his own shadow, the leaning of the Tower of Pisa, a little girl in a Tokyo Underground station – which simply reflects his enormous confidence in the power of the medium and the idiom of the created image. Executed as an accessory to Kire Urdin’s globally planned and implemented art project, Planetarium, Marin Dimeski’s photos once again reflect their autonomous potential with which this master of photography has created a contextual universe of the art project just ‘in passing.’ After 7,500 photographs ‘in passing,’ however, we now know that nothing of that universe is accessory, but that every little stone in this unique mosaic has a central place. Just a small number of selected photos will show this beyond any doubt. Although the world seen through Marin Dimeski’s lens appears to be fragmentary and moving at the speed of light, it is only the first impression. The photographic image is a very demanding visual material, and the traps it sets during the process of its complex understanding can often lead you to areas where the image is not to be found. In fact, we can assume that geography and topography have something to do with Marin Dimeski’s photos taken ‘in passing,’ since these characteristics can be used, if nothing else, as a starting point for their further reception.

 

It is easy to present the world in its full, diversified beauty. But the real challenge begins where the attractiveness of beauty is superseded by the intricate mythical structure and spirituality on which civilizations and cultures rest. In other words, a serious discussion about photography begins when the photographer, through the medium which he fully controls, succeeds in capturing the fluid of the location’s aura, and when the image is filled with that energy that affects not our eye but our soul. These are the “equivalents” Alfred Stieglitz searched for in his own time: to achieve a spiritual balance between reality and the image. This is the “silent speech of nature,” to which Lazo Plavevski pointed introducing Marin Dimeski’s exhibition in Skopje in 2004. It is said that photography presupposes the prompt capturing of a sight and that this is a characteristic feature of the medium. Each of Marin Dimeski’s photos refutes this qualification: his photographs are well thought out not only with regard to their physical proportions – which is a prerequisite for good photography – but also to their invisible spiritual presence, which places his photography where it rightfully belongs. It belongs in the sphere of visual arts and visual culture in which Marin Dimeski occupies a prominent position with his photographs taken ‘in passing.’ His photographs will not be remembered for the motifs they present, but for the spirituality which permeates them and radiates all around.

 

Želimir Koščević

(Foreword from the catalogue Marin Dimeski – “In Passing” Story, Art Gallery, Rovinj, 2004)

 

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 The Portrait in Marin Dimeski’s Photographs

 

    Marin Dimeski, photographer and art historian (born 1948), belongs to the small circle of creative professional photographers in Macedonia. Just like the much larger group of Macedonian artists, this circle also strives, through the unique technical possibilities of the photographic medium, to make original contributions to the development of art in this milieu today. But this aspiration involves Macedonian photographers in fierce and uncertain competition with the most modern development of photographic art in the world, as well as other disciplines of visual expression, both around the globe and here. Moreover, the critical comparison involved imposes itself in the photographic treatment of a subject, if it has already been treated in the fine arts as well.

    These are the methodological premises for the examination of this exhibition consisting of Dimeski’s more recent photographic portraits. It is widely known that even in the earliest period of its development (the 19h century) photography attempted to take over the domain of the artistic portrait. In this century, photography has been an unavoidable constituent of the programmes and practices of a number of art trends: in some manifestations of conceptual art it has practically become a substitute for the traditional fine arts. And finally, photographic art has been continuously obsessed with the portrait, not excluding the famous cynical dadaistic transformations (for instance, the reproduction of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with the added moustache by M. Duchamp). As far as Dimeski’s art is concerned, there is a smaller number of artistic and photographic inspirations as a possible paradigm. They range from photography with social tendencies to pop-art. Pop-art used the photographic portrait and transformed it (with a modern psychological feel) into a basic factor of the work of art: with montage, with multiplied representation of portraits of well-known persons in serigraphy, etc. The emergence of (artistic) hyper-realism and photographic realism were of particular importance. They (retroactively) inspired many photographers to treat the portrait with a personally-coloured analytical and objectivist approach. One of them is the American Richard Avedon, who exhibited two years ago in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. This photographer, whose works Dimeski considers his creative inspiration, includes in his work a series of impressive life-size portraits.

    Photography was used in Macedonia as a basis for artistic treatment by our last fresco-painters and first artists in the modern sense of the word – D. Andonov Papradiški and G. Zografski. Then the founders of Macedonian film and photography – the Manaki brothers and their followers (M. Šojlev, K. Bilbilovski, B. Drnkov) and later, other photographers, dealt with the portrait to varying extents. Photography was used in Macedonia as the basis of the artistic treatment of the human figure before the Second World War, and was increasingly used (as a kind of competition with this medium) with the appearance of radical realist expression, for instance, in the works of the painters R. Anastasov, T. Lulovski and R. Korubin. They are closest to Dimeski’s essential contemporary interests, relying also on his professional and friendly contacts with these artists. Dimeski’s previous interest in scenes from life was also close to some of their endeavours; the human being was rendered as a central factor, in accordance with the contemporary psychological and social orientation of this artist. His photographs had emphasized subdued contrasts with gradations from bright to darker areas. Sometimes the figure seems to be emerging from the background, which is intended as a projection screen or a scene where the portrait “has taken place”; the physiognomic, psychological and social status of these figures is most often underlined with a muted nostalgia. In retouching these earlier photographs, Dimeski was working on his artistic and stylistic identity: with his own way of “completing the picture”, shading and finishing the composition, the technical process became a function of the final visual effect. A transition to Dimeski’s more recent photographic portraits are the figures of the artists P. Mazev, R. Anastasov and D. Poposki-Dada done in a studio manner (1976-1978): the environment in which the portrait has been “caught” is either neutralized or is no longer (visually) present.

    Dimeski’s most recent portraits, too, have been made with a dual approach to form – by preserving the previous type of treatment and placing the subjects in a particular environment. The figure is made open and has become the only object of the artist’s interest, while the background or environmental data have been removed. Now Dimeski applies several preliminary operations. After the rather widely used “emotional relaxation” of the model and taking a series of introductory check-shots, he creates his concept of the characteristics of the model’s personality. Most often Dimeski also makes a sketch of the model and the most appropriate composition design.

    These carefully taken portraits of people from the worlds of culture, art. science and the media, as well as photographers and leaders on the new multiparty political scene, have been mainly offered as unique “photographic taking” of human figures, but also with a basis for other kinds of artistic treatment. Most probably there is a retroactive influence of (art) photo-realism on his fundamental current stylistic standpoints (mostly from the works of Anastasov and Lulovski). Some portraits have baroque and romantic elements (the gradation of light and dark areas and characteristic poses remind us of Courbet’s early “romantic” self-portraits in Dimeski’s pictures of the painter R. Korubin and the photographer V. Akimović), or of the Spanish art tradition, as far back as Goya (Anastasov’s portrait). Some portraits are close to some older models from the past (T. Lulovski’s portrait, to Durer’s self-portrait from his mature period). In some other photographs, the physiognomic, psychological and analytical treatment provides strong clues to the inner intellectual profile of the person (the artists A. Svetieva, P. H. Boškov, P. Mazev, G. Čemerski and the critic J. Denegri). The background is usually “erased” or only scantily visible. Many portraits have been taken in different places: in a natural environment, in a place of work, and so on. All of them demonstrate the affinity for finding the most appropriate visual artistic context, sometimes completely free of any stronger psychological or emotional factor.

    This exhibition represents another breakthrough of Macedonian photography onto the modern photographic art scene. It also represents a new serious creative stage in Marin Dimeski’s art.

 

 

Boris Petkovski, Ph.D.

(Foreword from the catalogue Marin Dimeski – Portraits, Art Gallery, Skopje, 1990)