Michal Chelbin’s photos elicit the timelessness of portraiture but also the timeliness of the political moment in Ukraine.
The Israeli photographer Michal Chelbin has made images of Ukrainian teen-agers at two different locations during two distinct periods: first, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, in 2008, and then in and around Kyiv, in 2019. Each time, her subjects were on the precipice of adulthood, attending their high-school graduation, an event that includes a prom. Our view is that of an outsider, although Chelbin’s father was born in western Ukraine, and she grew up fascinated by the black-and-white portraits that he had brought with him when he left as a child. In some of Chelbin’s photographs, the teens re-create those old styles: a subject stands, for instance, with a hand resting on the shoulder of a peer sitting nearby. Unlike teens in the U.S., the young men’s dress varies quite a bit, from tuxedos or conventional suits to brightly colored jackets or uniforms. The young women wear ball gowns or more casual short skirts.
For Mall Series, Massachusetts-based photographer Stephen DiRado preserves a distinctive slice of American culture in the 1980s, chronicling daily life for the Mall Rats of the now-closed Worcester Galleria.
The exhibition presents eight works from the project, which explores the transformative foreign influences of New York City’s 1970s disco culture and the liberation in 1975 of Angola (where the first disco hit was allegedly written) from Portuguese rule. Researching archival photographs, period costumes, and decor, Douglas meticulously recreated historical moments from the two locations that tie them together, and in the process, he probes questions about the veracity of photojournalism and the “decisive moment”.