Oil and Moss
Curator of Photography, The Getty Museum
A few things have become touchstones in my thinking about photography. The first is László Moholy-Nagy’s belief in the late 1920s and early 1930s that an understanding of photography was essential to visual literacy. The second is John Szarkowski’s exploration in his 1978 exhibition Mirrors and Windows of the dichotomy between understanding a photograph as a means of self-expression that reflects «a portrait of the artist who has made it» and as a method of exploration «through which one might better know the world;» equally important is his conclusion that most photographs communicate in the continuum between these two poles. The third touchstone is the difference in our increasingly screen-filled world between experiencing a photograph as an image or as an object and how material presence enriches that experience.
Igor Tereshkov’s «Oil and Moss» project seemed to address all three of these criteria. By soaking his 35 mm black-and-white negatives in oil before printing them, he makes the increasing threat of oil spills to the indigenous way of life of a Khanty family raising reindeer in Surgut in Western Siberia tangible. His project both explores a little-known corner of the world and expresses his deep concern for this environmental hazard.
The primary cause of global warming is human activity that releases carbon into the atmosphere, most significantly the burning of fossil fuels. My series “Oil and Moss” shot in KhMAO the district were produced about 50% of oil in Russia. This work shows how irresponsibly we treat fossils even at the producing stage, what damage does it bring to Indigenous People, nature and traditional way of life. Climate changes and fossil fuels developing primarily affects those who are most vulnerable, those who receive in fact the least benefit from the use of this resources.From these dishonesty and violations of people’s right to have a clean environment — climate change begins. Now the impact of our activities are noticeable around the world, but the climate changing begins with specific violations, people and places.
Shot on 35 mm film, oil-containing liquid from oil spills in KhMAO was used at the stage of film developing. Oil randomly destroys gelatinous “flesh” of film deform it with holes and scratches exactly as harmed environment deformed under the oil spillage.
In Russkinskaya vlg. lives Antonina Tevlina from Khanty people, her parents still live an indigenous way of life. Nomadize and grazing reindeers at their ancestral territory of about 600 hectares, they faced a problem, oil producers came to their land.
Companies mount checkpoints on roads, now only close relatives on lists can get to territory of ancestral lands, some guests of family are have to dress up to national Khanty people clothes in case of go throw checkpoints. “Yagel moss is like a bread for a deer, if something happens it took around 30 years to restore” — says Antonina Tevlina. Pollution of water and lakes, destruction of ecosystem, all this leads to a reduction of number of reindeers and endanger the traditional way of life of Indigenous People.