Every year, the multi-billion-dollar cruise industry transports passengers from the mundane reality of their lives, into a carefree fantasy world of luxury. Overlooking a narrow channel where the ships depart, Trotzky made thousands of candid shots capturing faces that seem to tell another much more desperate story.
On March 13, 2016, Port Everglades – USA set a world record with eight cruise ships and 54,700+ passengers embarking and disembarking in a single day. But quantity does not mean quality. Being that day in Port Everglades, for some mysterious reasons, I did not take any decent pictures for my project ‘Fugitive Souls’.
Every year, the multibillion-dollar cruise industry transports passengers from the mundane reality of their lives, into a carefree fantasy world of luxury. Destinations dot the map, with journeys lasting anywhere from a week all the way up to a year (is a lifelong option far off?). The one certainty of every such voyage? … the return port waiting at the end.
From my condo overlooking the narrow channel where the ships depart, I captured more than 7,000 images spanning nearly two years.
Without being noticed or intrusive, I photographed passengers who stepped outside to wave from their balconies as their ships departed. What I got, could be described as visual anthropology across the full spectrum of the human species – singles, couples, mature couples, seniors, married with children, newlyweds, gay … All fugitives from their own reality, drifting numbly in a state of psychosis. Their faces were painted with uncertainty, loneliness, and misery. And simmering beneath it all was their desperate need to sail away from themselves. From the shore, I gained the physical and artistic distance to capture the impact of the event.
I suspect, that many of the passengers entered into their voyages fully expecting to alter and improve their realities. But, of course, the escape was an illusion. The cruise ship was just an iron vessel transporting people from one physical destination to another (and often back again) – nothing more. Basically, passengers surrendered to a well-structured and commercially viable form of collective time-killing (a mental fog).
From the thousands of candid shots I captured, I feature those, which reveal passengers in highly pronounced mental states.
Today, while living in time of ‘post-photographic’ condition, and looking through 7000 shots of cruise ships’ balconies, you have a full right to ask “What the f..k is that?”
This is a mass of visually repetitive images, which are transforming it-self into symbols. But as if it was a language, only the grammar could add definite meaning to them. Here we deal with an observer rather than a photographer, who managed to capture something, which is refusing to show it-self.
The architectural and interior design of L40 building, where Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz is based, reminds the ship and enforces perception effect of Mitya Trotsky’s works. Human size 25 meters long installation of ships’ balconies and it’s inhabitants, makes one feel the spirit of an actual ship passing by in the exhibition hall, turns viewer into observer, placing him onto the place of a photographer who took these pictures.
Huge hi-resolution panoramic photographs of the ship, may be the biggest among the existing ones, look like a bee’s hive with hundreds of stories, mute scenes, each one the only of it’s kind. An eye is being catched by one episode, but inevitably the lateral vision moves it to another. All of them are different, but united by the whole space of the ship as in Noah’s Ark, each creature in pairs.
There is no way one can leave their problems, feelings or closeted sceletons ashore. The camera captures them all. The isolation on a cruise ship makes the psycological conditions of the passengers even more intense. These fugitive souls in their balconies-hives seem completely naked, in a mental rather than physical sense, as if they were being x-rayed by the camera. It’s up to the viewer to decide on what their mental state is.
Thu, 9 Nov, 19.00h – 21.00h
10 Nov 2017 – 6 Jan 2018
Hours: Wed-Fri, 14.00-18.00, other days/times upon request.
L40 – Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz
Putting Together the Project
This project is very special for me in many ways. First of all because it took a decent amount of my life-time – more than two years to produce, after making more than 7000 shutter actuations. I remember an old British movie ‘Trainspotting’ where drug addicted teenagers followed and monitored the trains. In my early 40s and being absolutely clean I was doing shipspotting just for pure photographic reasons. May be it’s about my lazyness that I found myself inside this ‘ultimate street photography project’ where I don’t have to walk long hours around the city hoping to grasp my ‘decisive moment’. I stay at one place and life is passing by in front of me – in the form of cruise ships and it’s passengers. The shooting process is candid and almost mechanical. The creative part starts later when I have to upload images to my computer and start investigating what my daily catch is. I have to say that the productivity ratio is quite low, but I like what I get at the end of the day. And, at the end of the project I can’t imagine how such shots could be produced in any other way. Also one should keep in mind technical complexity: it’s a moving ship, so high shutter speed, hi ISO and aperture limitations of a long lenses.
For a long period of time I was mesmerised by the process itself, I did not understand what’s it about and how it could be represented to a wide audience. I am very grateful to my curator, Anatoli Shuravlev, who is prominent artist himself. He liked the project and came with a photography – photo installation – video projection concept for the exhibit. We are trying to tell a story of human loneliness, desperate attempt to run away from ourselves, which is completely illusional. We are using different sizes, playing with scales, but repeating the same message on both intellectual and emotional levels.
At the end of the day I ask myself: but is it photography in the meaning of Bresson, Webb or Lorca di Corcia? I don’t know. I think nowdays it’s much harder to give a clear definition of what contemporary photography is. But I sincerely believe that what I am doing in this project and what I am trying to say – worth it.
About the Artist
MITYA TROTSKY (Dmitry Troitskiy) was born in 1971, Moscow, Russia.
Based in Miami, USA and Berlin, Germany.
Master’s degree in Visual Anthropology from Moscow State Lomonosov University (1993), MFA in Film and Theatre Directing (1997).
Since 2014 exploring his ways of visual narration through photography. He uses candid camera techniques to convey multi faceted portraits of modern society, approaches architecture and interior photography from a storytelling perspective to portray the state of local cultures.