Boris Savelev

Riumka, Moscow, 2005 © Boris Savelev



Boris Savelev is one of the most important and well-known photographers working in Russia today. He first came to the attention of the art-world in the west with the publication of Secret City by Thames and Hudson in 1981. This established Boris Savelevs´s reputation as one of the most serious artists of a new generation of photographers emerging from the former USSR.Savelev’s extraordinary photographic work has earned him a place in major international collections worldwide, among them, the Corcoran Galley in Washington, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Staatsgallerie of Stuttgart, the Saarland Museum in Saarbrucken, Germany, our Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe and many other major institutions.

In 1986, at the start of Perestroyka (rebuilding), Thomas Neurath, the director of Thames and Hudson visited Moscow looking for ‘unofficial’ artists. He selected Boris Savelev and in 1988 the monograph Secret City was published. This was the first book published in the west of an unofficial photographer living in the Soviet Union. Up until 1988 all of the works that Boris Savelev had exhibited were black and white prints but he had been experimenting with colour photography since the early 1980’s. When producing Secret City , Thames and Hudson selected a group of these colour photographs which had been taken using Orwachrome film. The poor quality of the colour, and the additional problems of the lithographic reproduction failed to capture the complexity and density that the artist wanted. In 1987 he discovered Kodachrome film and all his colour work taken on film since that time has used Kodachrome. In the years following its publication most of Boris Savelev’s work has been an enquiry into colour photography. Since 1995 most of his images have been captured digitally.

After the initial disappointment with the reproductions in Secret City Boris started to look for alternative printing processes. He worked with C Type prints, but anxious about their fugitive nature and unhappy with the uniform surface of the paper he started looking into dye transfer prints and then pigment transfer prints. He experimented with many of the nineteenth century processes becoming a master of gum bichromate printing (both in black and white and colour), platinum printing and Kallitype. Cameraworks was his inspiration and pictorialist photographers like Steichen, Kertész, Lartigue and Demarchy interested him, both for the quality of the prints and for the integrity of the images.

In 1995 he was invited to Germany by Alexander Von Berswordt Walrabe to show with M Bochum. Alexander decided to produce an edition of 15 of Boris’s images and was persuaded to make them as pigment transfer prints. The process is time consuming and difficult but with the right materials it is capable of producing beautiful images of great complexity and with a slight surface relief. Permaprint was the only studio in Europe capable or realising this edition and once a visa was obtained Boris was sent to London. This was the start of a long relationship between Boris and myself in search of the perfect way to manifest his images. Permaprint morphed into Factum Arte and moved to Madrid. Factum Arte developed the interest in surface and started building and acquiring 3D scanners. Digital printers were bought and taken to bits. It became clear that we had to develop a flatbed printer. This has now been perfected. New surfaces were investigated using materials usually associated with painting. These were subjected to rigorous testing and analysis, modified and tested again. Boris began to prepare his files to be printed in layers, a task that requires a very different sensibility from normal photographic printing.
Text by Adam Lowe, Factum Arte

His works of elegant observational realism are preoccupied with light and form – a constructivist aesthetic Savelev credits to his ‘methodical, scientific background.
The Guardian

AWARDS | Recognitions

Solo Shows
1978 Editions of magazine “Soviet Photo ”, Moscow
1979 Museum of photo Kaunas, Lithuania
1981 Museums of photo Shauliay, Lithuania
1992 Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
1993 Museums of Photo collections, Moscow
1994 State museum “Art Gallery”, Kaliningrad
1995 Gallery “mBochum” Bochum, Germany
1996 Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken, Germany
1997 Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
1999 “ifa-Galerie” Bonn, Germany
2000 “ifa-Galerie” Berlin, Germany
Kunsthaus, Dresden, Germany
State Museum of Art, Cottbus, Germany
School of Arts, Leer, Germany
2001 Anahita Gallery, Santa-Fe, USA
Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, Russia
2002 State Museum “Tretyakov Gallery” Government award, Moscow
2003 “Fine Art Gallery” University of Wuppertal, Germany
Anahita Gallery, Santa-Fe, USA
2004 “Squares” Photosoyz gallery, Moscow
“City no time” State Moscow museum of modern art, Moscow
2006 “la nostalgia di uno squardo perduto” Palazzo Magnani,
Reggio-Emilia, Italy, catalogue
“Colour & B/W” National Centre of contemporary
Photography, St. Petersburg, Russia, catalogue
2007 “31 Years” Guereta Gallery, Madrid, Spain, catalog
2008 “Out of time” Moscow House of Photography
2009 Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, UK
2011 CLAIR, München, Germany
2013 Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, UK

Corcoran Museum, Washington, USA
DG Bank Frankfurt, Germany
Museum of Fine Art, Santa-Fe, New Mexico, USA
Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken, Germany
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Fine Art Museum, Cottbus, Germany
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
State “Russian Museum”, St .Petersburg
State Museum “Art Gallery”, Kaliningrad, Russia
MBochum Gallery, Bochum, Germany
Anahita Gallery, Santa-Fe, USA
Roy Boyd Gallery, Chicago, USA
Calcografie Nacional, Madrid, Spain
State Museum “House of Photography”, Moscow, Russia
Factum-Arte, Madrid, Spain
University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
Arte Naturalesa Group, Madrid, Spain
State Center of Contemporary photography, St. Petersburg Russia
CLAIR, München, Germany
MOMA, San Francisco, USA


1978 Soviet Photo / portfolio
1979 Soviet Photo
1984 Russian painting in Ukrainian Museums Mistectvo, Kiev
1985 Soviet Photo / portfolio
Foto DDR/portfolio
1986 Another Russia, Thames&Hudson, London
Cheskoslovenska fotografie/portfolio Creative Camera/portfolio London
1988 Secret City, Boris Savelev. Thames&Hudson, London
Revue fotografie a 88/portfolio
1989 Aperture/portfolio NY.USA
1991 World&I/portfolio Washington. USA
Changing Reality. Starwood pb. USA
1993 Über die grossen Städte. Berlin
1995 Contemporary Photographers SJpress London
1999 Momente der Dauer, Bonn
Hot Shue/portfolio London
2000 Bauwelt /portfolio Berlin
Brennpunkt mag Berlin
Photography Now Magazine Berlin
PhotoNews magazine Hamburg
2001 Madrid a torno el Sol/ Estampa Digital/portfolio Calcografia National Madrid
2003 Stationen des Augenblicks/ University of Wuppertal, Germany, Factum-arte, Madrid/ Portfolio
2005 de Fotograaf magazine/Portfolio Amsterdam
2006 “la nostalgia di uno squardo perduto” Skira, Milan
2009 Guardian, London UK
Evening Standard, London UK
British Journal of Photography, UK
2010 Street Photography Now, Thames&Hudson, London UK