Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Donald Weber's portrait of a pariah
"Edward Limonov," Donald Weber, All rights reserved
Every once in a while in a book or magazine I come across a portrait that stops me. I look at it a long time, take in the details, read the caption, the text. I can't tell exactly why I'm so fascinated. Finally, I start turning pages again, but then I turn back. I look at the portrait some more.
This happened with the portrait of Edward Liminov (above) which ran Sunday as "Putin's Pariah" in The New York Times Magazine. The photographer is Donald Weber (I wrote earlier about Weber here). He has used light as in a Rembrandt painting, picking out Liminov's face & hands in a triangular composition backed by a muted, unfocused clutter of books & pictures. He has also captured Liminov's remarkable expression as he looks away, blue eyes at once fierce & afraid, intent & distracted.
The article by Andrew Meier is also fascinating. Liminov is a Russian novelist who lived in New York when the punks were in flower but is now back in Moscow leading a cadre of radical young people protesting the tightening grip of Putin's state power. He's not really political. He named his group the National Bolshevik Party though he has no serious ideology (I'm guessing it was because he looks so much like Lenin). And his protests are more theatrical provocation than anything remotely approaching revolution. Still,according to the piece, though he may be self-indulgent, vainglorious, narcisistic, even crazy, Liminov & his "boys" are just about the only ones willing to stand up to Putin in today's Russia.
Putin, for his part, has no humor or sense of the absurd (you can see that) & he's determined to destroy this poet/fool. It's getting ugly.
I think the portrait captures this.