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Boris Mikhaïlov – When My Mama Was Young


Young people forget everything … lose their memory … such a book does not exist. By dint of reminiscing the past permanently, we end up giving ourselves a kind of permission.

I wonder if it is possible to “go back” into the past and to create in this past something that is adapted to it. This, of course, could be a fiction …, but try to go back to the very root of the concept of danger and the permissiveness of that interesting time. Time passes and pure memory remains. In order to determine this level of permissiveness, I suppose.

Young people forget everything … lose their memory … such a book does not exist.

Try to revive the past by recreating the images made then. An attempt to revive this past in a way that is both formal and secret.

It is interesting to find moments, to find something new in the past. And this novelty must be put on the same level as the rest, just like the old Soviet standards. It’s interesting to try to make a collective portrait. It works as a test, as an attempt to transmit to this community.

Who would have liked more? To show, to transmit an anxiety (fear). Make a photographic history of life.

The feelings that were born in me at that time, I have known them all my life … for me in this past, and they are disgusting for me now … but I survived …

The feelings that were born in me at that time, I’ve known them all my life … They were interesting to me in this past, and they are repugnant to me now … but I survived …

Where am I going? To a regret, that of the great photos that were not made at that time.

I did not try to photograph an “event”, I tried to show a “sensation” … an ATMOSPHERE

Is it possible today to take pictures of the past? In a film this is possible, in painting may be … We can make a book, make staged photos … But when you touch the truth, everything starts to shake.We do not know where the truth begins, and where it stops … But it’s a strange word, the truth.

There is a feeling of this past in the tremor today

But the question remains: the photographer must he, can he photograph the past?

Today it seems that he COULD … and that because the photography also shakes and the truth itself is replaced by computer processing. And the trembling becomes one of the aesthetic principles of the photo.

“Flag on the Reichstag” … This photo was taken a few days after the event … and it seems true! And even if it had been made a week later, it would have been true too … What is the temporal distance between the event and the moment when it is no longer true?

For me, this series began to work when the photographs taken in an artificial past were combined with the actual photographs taken today and taken a long time ago. It seems to me that in this way I have been able to reduce this temporal distance.

Another reason to revive the past is to compare it to the present. This series is an attempt to compare past life with present life. By comparing this ancient life with the present, we realize that the worst is related to the life of today. Now, experiencing the worst can be compared.

By mixing a fictional past, a real past and the present, it is possible to finally obtain a feeling of this time, and to relate it to the present.

A substituted reality and a fiction of reality, implicated in different times, that is the statement I could afford to make today, and Mom is the reason.

Boris Mikhailov, 2013

(Translation: Jeanne Bouniort)

* Acknowledgment: Ilya Andreevich Khrzhanovsky



Boris Mikhailov
FotoZeit Salzau, 1996
Soviet Collective Portrait, 2011
When My Mama Was Young, 2012-2013
February 09 – March 09, 2018
7, rue Pastourelle F-75003 Paris


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