Vitaly Butyrin, Legend, 1976 (1096.1986)
The Lithuanian photographer Vitaly Butyrin (b. 1947) is considered one of the world’s leading science-fiction photographers. His works are graphic transformations of reality with montage. He creates a composite photograph by cutting—frequently joining ten or more other photographs—and photographing it again so that the final image is converted back into a seamless print. Butyrin’s pictures will inevitably attract your eye, by being so uncommon and thought-provoking and because of their striking imagery. Dozens of fragments, noticed in real life, have been intermingled in quite an unexpected pattern, and thus a unified photographic image has emerged, powerful in its imaginative reality—or realistic fantasy.
Photography fixes reality, i.e. the photographic image is often a strongly resembled copy of an object or situation as it was once physically present. This means that the photograph refers to an existing reality, and is supposed to give a realistic view on the referent that is being represented. But suddenly here, in Butyrin’s photo collages, another world is assembled from fragments of the conventional one–surprising, extraordinary, and full of new sense. Although there are a lot of images and paintings in which it is a mystery what we are looking at, it is significant that a photograph can affect our perception of the depicted scene in a much more estranged way. Whereas a painter can paint whatever he wants, a photographer, according to Roland Barthes, must depict “what is there.” But how can one make a camera lens, which is able to only see what the eye can see, convey the same that can be written or painted?
Butyrin’s photographs are not only created by the camera’s lens and the author’s vision but also by his thought and emotion. We tend to see through a photograph, negating the surface, as if we are looking through a window to life. But while looking at Butyrin’s prints, we are not only communicating with reality, but also–and rather–with the artist himself and his inner world. Although the photographer uses an objective considered medium, he is able to show subjectivity. Like a painter, who can reinvent the referent with his pencil, Butyrin is, in a sculptor-like way, recreating a fantasy world that cannot be represented through an objective approach to reality. While the photographer is working with a transparent medium, he is still free to use and show his own concept within the frame of the image, and thereby alienate the content of the photographs, and confuse the spectator. His work inscribes into its meaning precisely the play between internal and external worlds, so the combination of certain elements occur different associations in the viewer and a poetic resonance. Contemplation of his images becomes therefore philosophical, since we disclose deep and serious meaning in the unconventional shapes created by Butyrin.