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There is a video that accompanies the book: a man sits at a table, browsing through a pile of photographs. We only see his hands, and hear the description of how he began to take pictures, as a truck driver in Siberia. A friend gave him a camera, and that is how he started documenting his life. Truck driving is a lonely job. He says that, after a while, you get used to the loneliness; you learn to live with it. Taking photographs is an interruption. At times, he has written comments on the back sides of the pictures. The man's name is Ivan Putnik. He is looking at the past, because now he is, once again, devoting himself fully to his real passion: fly fishing. This, he says, is where he is a true artist.

When you look at the small album, recently published as a book by The Eriskay Connection in The Netherlands, you will undoubtedly agree with Ivan that he is not a talented photographer. Endless roads, desolate apartment buildings in city suburbs, as well as landscapes and a few interiors; these are all you see. Seemingly quite incidentally, you also witness the enormous environmental destruction caused by the ruthless extraction of fossil fuels in one of the remotest corners of the world. As laconically as the author of the pictures captures moments of natural beauty, the radical changes to the landscape, caused by gas pipelines, ports and merchandise transportation, also slip into the images. When a closer look at the motifs is taken, certain strange mistakes in the prints start to be irritating, also. There are breaks and jumps in the landscape images; abrupt level drops in roads; gaps in power lines that are hanging in the air. These are picture phenomena of the kind recognisable in Google Street View; and this is how Ivan Putnik's secret is uncovered.

Ivan Putnik is an invention of the Italian artist collective Vaste Programme. Its three members have taken different pictures – uploaded by many authors on Google Street View – and have combined them to create a compelling new story. In this manner, the amateur photographs develop a new context. Yet, the fictitious story of the truck driver still says a lot about the conditions of the region: the destruction of the Siberian landscape, as a result of the uncontrolled exploitation of its resources. Around 50 picture authors are listed in the book; while Ivan Putnik, the supposed author, only complements the collection of photos with brief, postcard-like comments. No explanatory text is included; you need to go to the publisher's website or question the artist collective in order to understand the conceptual point of the book. That is when you stumble across the video that was mentioned at the beginning.
According to the end of the video, the strangest thing Putnik ever saw was not actually photographed, as he had left his camera in his truck. In fact, he never reveals what it was; but the selection of images now published reveal enough oddities, and leave sufficient space for individual associations. (Ulrich Rüter)

The Long Way Home of Ivan Putnik, Truck Driver
Vaste Programme
144 pages, 96 colour pictures, 11.5 × 16.3 cm. English
The Eriskay Connection

Vaste Programme

The trio got together, in 2017, to develop a joint artistic project. The work by Giulia Vigna (born 1992), Leonardo Magrelli (born 1989) and Alessandro Tini (born 1988) focuses on post-photography and new media. They use everyday materials and objects that seldom receive attention, and, by reusing and combining the pictures and items they find, they reveal unforeseen aspects and new meanings. The Long Way Home of Ivan Putnik is their first joint publication.  

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