Aleksandar Kondev (1950) is one of those Macedonian photographers and artists whose work is indellibly linked with the development of the photographic art in the country.
ALEKSANDAR KONDEV – THE WORLD AS A VISUAL CHALLENGE
Aleksandar Kondev (1950) is one of those Macedonian photographers and artists whose work is indellibly linked with the development of the photographic art in the country. We are also at liberty to say that Kondev’s work is an integral part of the highest achievements of Macedonian photography starting from the second part of the 20th century up to today. He has been an active force for the past five decades in the varied and divergent trends that have shaped Macedonian photography, while his work is an important testimony to the overall development of this art in Macedonia.
The circumstances of his life, but also his clearly defined love of photography, has lead him relatively early (1969, though during the period 1961 – 1969 he was among the first to work in animation and film) to decide that this will be his main profession. This determination has not waned to this very day!
When we look back now at his 9 solo exhibitions, participation in over 40 group exhibitions at home and abroad, as well as a number of national and international awards, all this without a doubt makes Aleksandar Kondev a doyen of Macedonian art photography, a true representative of its development and modern heights and achievements within the national art and culture.
Kondev has a grasp of the essence of photography and knows its history well. He is aware of its roots and close ties with painting, as well as of its reputation as the most mimetic and realistic of the arts, but also as the most superficial (Sontag). Still, this doesn’t stop him from devoting nearly his whole life to it. This can only be done by someone who believes in its intrinsic values. Like many long tenured photographers of his ilk, his interest in photography covers a broad thematic range. However, in Kondev’s work there is an underlying primary vocation, an “inherent orientation”, an initial, yet essential determination: first for “classical photography” (without an expressed inclination for experimentation and innovation), which continues in the priority he gives to several thematic units: life photography (including the sub-themes of children, portraits, street photography, etc.), urban themes from everyday city life, social and environmental themes, landscapes, structures (macro-photography), etc.
Kondev states that “the magic of photography is hidden in the process of creation. Though it is not visible, yet it radiates from its every part!” He is a believer in this magic, which can easily be seen in his works. This whole “new world” which opens up to us in Kondev’s photographs is just that – his magic. As seen through his lens, processed through his consciousness in a flash and offered to the spectator as his sublimate of reality, as a veritable visual challenge posed by his creative imagination.
The creative journey undertaken by Kondev represents a 50-year patient trip through the world with open eyes, the world seen as a visual challenge for his own personal perception, his interpretation and understanding of the things that surround us. Its focus needn’t be on historic events or social turmoil, ballyhooed travels or celebrities, but rather all the things that pass through his lens receive his personal stamp, his own point of view and manner of representing what he has seen. That is, in fact, the only way to set out on journey to become an autonomous artist, to build upon one’s own experience and photographic knowledge and principles, which in his case fortunately has lead him to an impressive career and to national prominence.
His photography cannot be reduced to a gimmick, trick or special effects. It’s even less an obscure and inaccessible personal narrative. Kondev believes in good photography, whatever that means. Yet, those who know and love photography know what exactly it means. It is well thought out, even though it is captured in a flash, it is elaborate though it occurs in a part of a second. In Kondev’s case, good photography is life photography – one that follows the esthetics of Cartier Bresson – but also, as it was already pointed out, photography that likes to set new the boundaries, which is not an easy thing to do these days.
Aleksandar Kondev today is the only active representative left of the generation of Macedonian photographers that modernized Macedonian photography in the 1970’ and 80’s, a generation that introduced a different esthetics and new horizons in the approach to this art. Furthermore, Kondev and his generation succeeded in putting photography on equal footing with all the other arts.
However, his photographic work cannot be positioned only in historical terms and context. His works within the context of the national photographic art can be seen as a testament to the stability and continuity of his expression, as well as the development of his personal esthetics which has stood the test of regional and worldwide art standards. Kondev’s photography at same time can serve as a living breathing manual for his younger colleagues, a professional and esthetic guide when embarking on the ever unpredictable and unknown photographic wanderings.