Федор Телков. Во время венчания. Служба в храме во имя Рождества Христова. Белокриницкая иерархия. Екатеринбург, 2021
Федор Телков. Прихожанка храма во имя Рождества Христова. Белокриницкая иерархия. Екатеринбург, 2016
Федор Телков. Прихожанин Единоверческого храма Архангела Михаила показывает двуперстие. Верхний Тагил, 2019
Федор Телков. Портрет уставщика. Поморское согласие. Челябинск, 2021
Федор Телков. Двуперстное крестное знамение. Белокриницкая иерархия. Екатеринбург, 2016
Date: March 22 — June 19, 2022

Curated by Sergey Babkin

The Moscow Museum of Modern Art presents The Right to Believe, an exhibition by the Russian photographer and artist Fyodor Telkov. Telkov dedicated his practice primarily to the study and creation of a portrait of his native Urals region of Russia. This project is part of the Photography / Commentary program.

The Right to Believe project is an extended visual study of contemporary Old Belief that reveals its culture to the viewer through black and white, grainy photographs. The visuals are accompanied by numerous interviews with representatives of different communities and conciliarities, of different ages and statuses, and with descendants of Old Believers. Every interview has one common motif: the struggle for freedom of religion and cultural identity against the background of wars, repression, reprisals and accusations of heresy. The transcripts of the direct speech of the protagonists are barely edited, which preserves the uniqueness of each individual story. The Right to Believe project could well be called a unique phenomenon, as the last such visual study of Old Believer culture was conducted more than a hundred years ago by the Nizhny Novgorod photographer Maksim Petrovich Dmitriev.

For each project, Telkov chooses his own visual language, which helps to guide the viewer and attune him with the subject of research. The artistic technique of the project The Right to Believe is a direct reference to the first portraits of Old Believers filmed in the XIX century and is consonant with the continuity and preservation of Old Believer culture, and emphasizes its depth and mystery. Group and solitary portraits of Old Believers are imbued with incredible expressiveness, each of them transmits a special relationship with spirituality, eternity, tradition and time. Telkov’s photographs are a bridge between the handcrafted, pre-industrial past with carved shutters and wooden huts in the background of almost untouched nature, the peasant Soviet way of life with its typical tableware and furniture and the present, with wires, sockets, radiators and household chemicals that seem to have been accidentally caught in the shot.

Despite its research character, The Right to Believe is not an attempt to systematically catalog and classify the inner life of closed communities, but rather a conversation on universal themes of self-determination, the struggle for one’s beliefs and preservation of identity in the era of globalization. The artist solves this problem through openness, honesty, sincere interest, the establishment of trusting relationships with the bearers of unique knowledge and the refusal to exoticize them.

The exhibition is complemented by the site of the satellite Russian Landscape project dedicated to the Old Believer communities abroad. Russian Old Believers, in pursuit of the opportunity to preserve their way of life, dispersed around the world. Landscapes photographed through services like Street View are processed through photographic techniques and subsequently retouched, which makes any definition of authenticity completely uncertain.

About the Artist

Fyodor Telkov is a photographer, artist and researcher of the anthropological and cultural diversity of the Urals and Russia. Born in 1986, he lives and works in Yekaterinburg. Graduated from the Art and Graphic Department of the Nizhny Tagil State Social and Pedagogical Academy, then took several professional courses. Teacher of graphic design and applied photography, member of the Union of Russian Photographers since 2010, curator at the Metenkov House photographic museum (2017–2019).

Winner of numerous awards in photography and contemporary art: winner of Circuito OFF competition within Festival di Cortona, Italy (2013), Young Photographers of Russia (2018, 2016, 2013, 2009), winner of Andrei Stenin International Photojournalism Competition, Russia, (2018, 2016); Fotocanal Photography BOOK 2016, Spain, Madrid, (2016), Urbanautica SACRED. THE EXPERIENCE OF BEYOND, Italy (2020), winner of the Innovation award in the category Project of the Year with the exhibition Ural Mari. No Death and others.

Personal exhibitions of Fyodor Telkov and group exhibitions with his participation were held in Holland, USA, France, Japan and other countries, as well as many Russian cities. He has published four books (independently and in co-authorship). He has published in The Independent Photographer, British Journal of Photography, GEO, The Guardian, The Russian Reporter, The Calvert Journal, Forbes, YET magazine, The New Times, BBC, Port, and many others.

About the Photography / Commentary Program

Photography / Commentary is a program by the Moscow Museum of Modern Art dedicated to contemporary photography in Russia. It consists of solo exhibitions by artists who use photography to make sense of social and political processes. While exploring how photography produces criticism and commentary on reality, the program also raises the opposite question: how we can talk about photography, in what ways its contradictions and limitations can be identified and analyzed, as well as its place in contemporary art in Russia. In 2021 the program included solo exhibitions by Maxim Sher and Alina Desyatnichenko. In 2022 artists Fyodor Telkov and Vera Barkalova will hold their solo exhibitions.