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24.10.2018

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Aleksey Kondratyev is not unknown among Leica fans, largely due to the fact that his Ice Fishers series qualified him as a finalist for last year’s Leica Oskar Barnack Award. Loose Joints, an independent London publisher, have now produced a book of this body of work. It is not an opulent photo book, but more of a refined brochure put together with great care.
Anyone seeing the series for the first time may well wonder what these strange objects, seemingly set up at random on endless expanses of ice, might be. Whatever is hidden within the plastic structures dusted with a thin layer of frost, is barely recognisable: they are, in fact, Kazakhstani fishermen trying to catch fish at minus 40°C under the frozen Ishim River. To protect themselves from the merciless cold, they stitch together simple tents made out of plastic sheets and wrappings, through which the dim silhouettes of the crouching men are only at times barely visible.
Born in Kyrgyzstan and living today in the USA, the photographer completed this series in 2016. He had stumbled across the ice fishermen on the river that wends its way through Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, two years previously. The futuristic city of high-rise buildings, constructed almost completely in the nineties to exploit Kazakh oil reserves, has been left out deliberately.
At first, the concept behind the series seems quite simple; but, in fact, the ice fishermen’s misshapen plastic huts inspire a diversity of associations. On the one hand, the impression of minimalistic works of art may spring to mind, even though the tents only actually serve a functional purpose. On the other hand, a relationship to modern-day capitalism is evident, as the plastic tents have been patched together with packaging found at the local markets, but which originated with imports from the West, China or Russia. By drawing our attention to the appropriation of imported materials and their subsidiary applications, Kondratyev is underlining the flow of materials produced by the global economy, and its impact on local and nomadic practices. He reveals the point where international trade policies meet the lives of individual people. The photographer has found a way to give a captivating and simple visual expression to these activities.
The design of the soft-cover publication also plays with these associations: the publishers not only used different types of paper, they also held the pages together with large, visible stitches.  
(Ulrich Rüter)


Ice Fishers, Aleksey Kondratyev
60 pages, 40 colour plates.
24 x 30 cm, English
Loose Joints

Aleksey Kondratyev

Born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in 1993, the photographer first studied in Los Angeles, before completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. His first book, Formations, was published by Fabrica in 2016. His work has been on display at a number of exhibitions and published in the Financial Times, CNN, Spiegel, New York Times, and National Geographic. He lives in Los Angeles.

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