Man without a Camera

At first glance it may seem that Ivars Gravlejs is a photographer who is mainly interested in photographers and their cameras. This is seen in his older works, such as Excuse me, could you photograph me? (2005), when he had random passersby photograph him while secretly filming them as they did. (The resulting documentation was displayed in public at the same spot where the particular event took place.) The series of photographs The Medium is the Message (2008) captures high-quality cameras accompanied by a listing of technical parameters. Ivars himself often speaks with irony about this work, stating that only photographers themselves may evaluate it in full scope. One way or another, the resulting photographs of most of Ivars' projects are but dull, irritating exhibition necessities, referring to the process or method by which they were created.

The latest work by Ivars is entitled Photographer without a Camera. The project is comprised of several parts. The first part is like some kind of inconspicuous, civil event. Ivars visits large camera shops and underhandedly slides his own SD card into displayed products. He photographs things going on around him. The resulting series of photographs possess a reportage-like characteristic. They are images of the buyers - future photographers - proud camera owners .... This act has a tinge of guerrilla tactics. The photographer without a camera journeys to the epicenter of consumerism, and its means of creation exudes a surreptitious strategy if only for a while. In the next phase, Ivars decided to engage the buyers themselves .... All he had to do was insert an SD card "discovered" right in the shop, and then take it back out after a week or two. Ivars carefully sorts and archives many pictures taken by random buyers, anonymous authors and their anonymous models. He also began "harvesting" images in computer notebook stores. Laptops are full of automatically stored photographic self-portraits and video recordings of anonymous creators recorded by the web camera. All he must do then is send them to his email address. This collecting procedure links back to one of Ivars' previous works entitled Latvian Girls and Boys, which is (as the title indicates) a well-done collection of self-taken portraits of Latvian boys and girls downloaded from the portal, The images are full of odd intimacy, tasteless stupidity, latent deviations and boisterous machismo. When viewing this carefully nurtured visual waste, one experiences a mixture of widely varied feelings: from embarrassment to disgust.

Linking all this together, we see that Ivars no longer wants to be a photographer with a camera. This world contains too much visual waste, so why create even more with a false impression that we are creating values. It is enough to find the photography, steal it, sort it, archive it and sometimes show it to somebody…

Vasil Artamonov - artist
(from Fotograf Magazine #17/2011)