Zbigniew Kosc PERM 1994
Perm cemetery (Russia) - photography by Zbigniew Kosc © 1994
Perm is an industrial city in the Ural and it looks a little like its cemetery: big, gray, poor and provincial. The old municipal cemetery is not longer in use, the last burials were in the early fifties. Nobody comes here anymore to visit or tend the graves. On the portraits on the tombstones we don't find any great heroes or significant personages, these are faces of ordinary people: Russians, Jews, Tartars. In double graves with a star and a cross rest Communists with their wives who still adhered to the Orthodox faith. Like tribes, each of these groups has their own section, sometimes their burial places are marked by symbols which will have lost their meaning and will some day be forgotten.

The portraits are in varying stages of fading and deterioration, caused by rain and sun, by the human hand but also, as everything in this world, simply by time itself. With time going by, all those faces will disappear and what will remain will be nothing but soil and leaves. The people on those portraits will die for a second time, this time forever, but for the time being, the photographic image on their tombstone still grants them some form of existence.

The cemetery in Perm reflects dramatic history of Soviet Russia in the 20th Century: revolution, collectivization, famine, wars, reconstruction. All these people have played their part, however small, in the historical drama and the tombstones also reflect a part of their personal roles in history. They were hard living and working people. When their lives were drawing to an end, most of them were probably old, ugly and sick, but it was their wish or the desire of their relatives to leave an image to posterity that shows them in the bloom of life. For the portraits, their best photographs were chosen, so they could stay young and beautiful for those who came to look at the graves, for us.

Now, half a century and more after these tombstones were erected, the chipped and cracked porcelain shows us a final truth. The innocent provincial charm of the photographs seems to have been a camouflage. We see ghosts rather than the effigy of people once alive, the scratched out eyes of the farmers, faceless soldiers, perforated children, the smashed in heads of Jewish teachers, the tortured beauty of women.We observe a strange symmetry of wild plants around, an ultimate comment on all this destruction: the nature resembles the portraits.
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text

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PERM project

exhibitions and reviews

PERM publications

PERM by Zbigniew Kosc, 2008, Amsterdam - Wien, book in duoton, 48 pages, print run 100, mail to z.kosc@chello.nl

exhibition catalog
'TRACES - Erinnerung in Fotografien', Künstlerhaus Wien - Edition Fotohof Salzburg, 2008, ISBN 978-3-902675-13-2
ISBN 978-3-900926--76-2

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mail to z.kosc@chello.nl