Odessa: Photos from 1985
Victor Ratushny’s Odessa — the beginning and the end, as fate would have it.
The Odessa theme was born thanks to Orvochrom slide film. This period lasted one year. The young 33-year-old photographer, often exalted in the eyes of others but essentially existential within himself, loaded the film at the beginning of 1985 and for a year existed alone with his favourite city: the city of his childhood, adolescence and youth. Ratushny is not in a hurry, he is always waiting to meet something extraordinary, something that penetrates the soul, touches the heart, excites the mind. And when this moment happens, the photographer takes out his camera and shoots. Each frame is filled with meaning, each slide is expressive and unique. Ratushny’s films depict “signs of time”, four seasons of one year of Odessa’s life at the change of epochs.
Odessa in the mid-1980s, the author recalls, was an open city and an all-Union health resort. Millions of USSR residents filled sanatoriums, holiday homes and private sector every year. And everyone had a good time. All the arches of the houses were open, there were no bars or code locks. It was interesting to look and contemplate Odessa of the courtyard. A special pleasure was travelling along the roofs and shooting city motifs from the height. And of course the sea. The sea was open.
Ratushny saw a multi-layered Odessa with real, authentic texture, with living characters reading Soviet newspapers. She was a good province by the sea. Victor’s photographs were a pure reflection of his love for the place he lived in.
After viewing the slide film in Odessa photo club “Photon” Ratushny was called to Bebel, where in the state security service there was a conversation and another viewing. They looked through his prints and in particular the girl with a red flag. This call to the authorities was a revelation for Victor and the starting point of a new path. So he decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean and go to the USA.
Years later, on his return from New York, Ratushny did not film in Odessa. For him, the poetic atmosphere had disappeared. The commercial component killed the image. But the youth was not lost forever, it remained in the memory, in the glow of the projector and on the screen.
From conversations with the author
Curator Misha Maslennikov
Self-portrait from Odessa 1985
The Big Fountain
Pristine shores of the Big Fountain were filling my soul with something inexpressible, and after long journeys they were bringing me back. Thunderstorms would erase the beach trails and change the landscape until it was unrecognizable. Airy floating castles of panorama lovers and dilapidated constructions of fishermen inevitably slid down. Nothing is permanent on this earth — this was the first lesson I learned. Back then I photographed still life of autumn shipwrecks, backyards and picturesque roofs of my beloved Odessa. From this slide film began my venture into photography. Accessibility of yards and roofs raised the pulse and brought to life the “Form”. When the only safety was rope and chimneys, which have never failed me. I showed this series of slides for the first time at the photo club. Such reflection of reality wasn’t taken very well, so I embarked on a long journey. With just a single suitcase, leaving everything else behind, at the age of 37 I arrived to America, The Land of the Free. In reality she ended up being an expert pretender, my September 11 series was rejected as anti-American. The fact is, nobody is interested in the truth, it’s inconvenient, and it’s asking too many questions. But the paths of India and Athos has merged in me without contradictions. So it is possible, when no politics are involved.
Photography is just Photography, and even though I dedicated to it most of my life, in the end I will have to give it up as well. High quality hand-made prints that express poetry and esthetics is what remains. All is well, the most important was achieved!
Mythical paths of the Big Fountain have brought together all of my journeys into one, and all of them are linked by the intent to see the genuine truth. Otherwise what’s the point?
Viktor Ratushny 2020