Yuri Palmin’s talent was developing alongside the rapid evolvement of the Russian post-soviet architecture. He was the first to picture its first realisations, and to make them known around the country on the pages of the newborn architectural press. His purist geometric style went hand in hand with the new Russian modernism, finally freed of the state control, and delving into the almost free market of form and expression. But there he found the trap, awaiting those seeking depth in the simple form: most of the architects he photographed gained commercial success, and the architecture they promoted turned to be easily adopted, both, for the mass market of malls and offices, and the pseudo-elitist market of the nouveau riche housing.
The architecture he was looking for became the new ordinary, losing on the way any trace of ingenuity, or artistry, or at least finesse. Twenty-five years after the fall of communism Russian cities are filled with endless sprawl of poorly copied or misunderstood concepts, immortalised in the ever-growing numbers of European-wanna-be buildings, while his former favourites sport large offices with projects lacking depth or genius. In the meantime Palmin went on in his art, searching for new meanings.
His work lately departs from the architecture everybody loves, for the architecture everybody misses. Meaning the routine architecture which is standing here unnoticed, or ignored, or despised. The architecture which is un-read by both, the general public, and most of those who are deemed professionals. But Yuri possesses the knowledge of reading this cypher—and reading it out loud. This mastery of reading was well summarised in a saying by Igor Palmin—a prominent Russian photographer, and Yuri’s father and teacher: photography is not what I see, it is what I have seen. This virtuose seeing is central to the artistic quality of Yuri’s photographs, which could often induce laughter with their comic juxtapositions of irrelevant objects so often superimposed in the Russian landscape—just to strike you in the very next moment with the utter improbability of the complicated rhythm, or vibrant Rothko colour, or the structure depicted. And then the spectator finds himself overwhelmed by the depth of the not-so-ordinary reality he witnesses every day, leaving it unnoticed.
After all, poetry is made just of the same words we use daily without feeling them worth to remember—and Palmin’s photography provides us the quote marks both pulling two dimensions off our 4D experience, and providing us with not a frame—but a framework arranging the seen into not-so-readily-available metaphors. It resembles the old Scandinavian scaldic manner of kenning usage, when fairly distant visual compositions made, one employ one’s wit piercing through the quoted two dimensions not into the other two, but into the ideal world—to be introspectively rewarded by unexpected understanding of the yet unknown. Then poetry is made of memory—which is one of the proofs that time exists, and when drained off, the image falls into the arms of the spectator.
Yuri says his pictures fall in two main categories—those having to do with some architectural being, and those that are part of his memory. The difference could be outlined by the type of contemplation involved: meditating upon something, versus touching the stream of being. And then a spectator, if confronted by the fact that there is no that much difference—if the matter is an outstanding masterpiece, or a neglected structure of times long gone, or a mere coincidence—they all speak the same language of being here, and being here in perfectly aligned constellations, which is in so many ways similar to ours.