Fame came late to Vladimir Vorobyov. The engineer of Novokuznetsk, employee of the Western Siberian Metallurgical Combinate, who died in 2011 at the age of 70, received in the mid-1970s his first and only camera. His photos taken in the following fifteen years were not published anywhere, they only featured on a few local exhibitions. It was his friend and fellow photographer Vladimir Sokolayev who organized a life-work exhibition from his legacy in this November in Novokuznetsk, which also attracted the attention of the Moscow photo world. And rightly so.
What first touches us in these pictures is the radical absurdity, the perfect incompatibility of scenes, objects, people, the parallel realities coexisting in the photos. As the tired kindergarten teachers eat and drink in the context defined by the cheerful Lenin picture. The women with shopping bags clumsily standing in front of the portraits of the shock-workers. The woman carrying the flower box under the lianas of the wire jungle putting to shame even that of Mallorca.
However, these pictures are intentionally and explicitly documentary photos. They are no visual punch lines, but apparently, as heirs of a long tradition, want to accurately portray reality. And this gives the real weight to absurdity, too. That it is no carefully sought-for joke, but an organic and necessary part of everyday life, a major contribution to the frightfulness of this life.
On the other hand, beauty is also always present in these pictures. A beauty, love and humanity, which, as it cannot be otherwise, appears within the frameworks of absurdity, forming a sharp contrast with misery and erosion. It does not always seem to be the stronger. In some pictures it is apparently losing. Yet it is there in each of them, it is present, it displays itself, it gives hope.