The Polaroids of Andrei Tarkovsky : The Mystery of Everyday Life

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson, 2006.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

“Never try to convey your idea to the audience,” said Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, “—it is a thankless and senseless task. Show them life, and they’ll find within themselves the means to assess and appreciate it.”

Tarkovsky is best known for such cinematic masterpieces as Solaris, The Mirror, Andrei Rublev, and Stalker. Tarkovksy’s vision was unique as a filmmaker; he favored long takes and leisurely scenes that explored the beauty and mystery of everyday life.

“We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means,” Tarkovsky explained in an 1983 interview with Hervé Guibert in Le Monde.

I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it’s a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it.

 

Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker (still), 1979.

Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker (still), 1979.

 

 

Andre Tarkovsky on the set of Mirror.

Andre Tarkovsky on the set of Mirror.

 

Tarkovsky’s unhurried, profound films explore themes like memory, childhood, and dreams, and are the antithesis of the Hollywood obsession for rapid-cut editing. He was a master of time and rhythm, which he believed was “the dominant, all-powerful factor of the film image.” This is cinema that captures the intimate ebb and flow of everyday life. Here is Tarkovsky explaining artistic approach to filmmaking:

I think people somehow got the idea that everything on screen should be immediately understandable. In my opinion events of our everyday lives are much more mysterious than those we can witness on screen. If we attempted to recall all events, step by step, that took place during just one day of our life and then showed them on screen, the result would be hundred times more mysterious than my film

[Stalker]. Audiences got used to simplistic drama. Whenever a moment of realism appears on screen, a moment of truth, it is immediately followed by voices declaring it “confusing.” Many think of Stalker as a science fiction film. But this film is not based on fantasy, it is realism on film. Try to accept its content as a record of one day in lives of three people, try to see it on this level and you’ll find nothing complex, mysterious, or symbolic in it. (Andrei Tarkovsky Talking, 1981)

“Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [of us all],” the director Ingmar Bergman once said, “the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”

 

Ivan's Childhood 1962, Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood (still), 1962.

 

 

Andrei and Sven Nykvist-Photo- Lars-Olof Löthwall-Nostalghia

Sven Nykvist and Andrei Tarkovsky (Photo by Lars-Olof Löthwall courtesy of Nostalghia)

 

 

Andrei Tarkovsky and Margarita Terekhova on the set of The Mirror.

Andrei Tarkovsky and Margarita Terekhova on the set of The Mirror.

 

While I was familiar with Tarkovsky’s films, I had never seen these luscious Polaroids taken by the director until today. (Thanks to Sigrun Hodne who writes the Sub Rosa blog in Norway for alerting me to Tarkovsky’s still images).

These 60 photographs were made by Tarkovsky in Russia and Italy between 1979 and 1984 and have been compiled in the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids. As you can see, Tarkovsky was just as adept with still Polaroids as he was with film. His careful eye is in evidence in these Russian and Italian landscapes with their deep shadows and glimmering sunlight, as well as in the intimate moments Tarkovsky captured with his wife, son, and dog.

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 
 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson, 2006 (Photo courtesy Constellation Cafe)

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson, 2006 (Photo courtesy Constellation Cafe)

 

This excerpt from the introduction of Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids written by Tonino Guerra describes Tarkovsky’s fascination with the Polaroid:

At my wedding in Moscow in 1977, Tarkovsky had a Polaroid camera in his hand and he moved about happily with this instrument which he discovered only recently. He and Michelangelo Antonioni were my witnesses at the wedding, and as the custom then, it fell to them to choose the music for the band to play when the time came to sign the marriage certificate. The chose The Blue Danube.

Antonioni, too, made great use of a Polaroid at the time, and I remember that during a reconnaissance in Uzbekistan for a film that in the end we never made, he wanted to give three elderly Muslims a photograph he had taken of them. The eldest, after casting a brief glance at the image, gave it back to him, saying: ‘Why stop time?’ We were left gaping in wonder, speechless at this extraordinary refusal.

Tarkovsky often reflected on the way that time flies and this is precisely what he wanted: to stop it, even with these quick Polaroid shots. The melancholy of seeing things for the last time is the highly mysterious and poetic essence that these images leave with us. It is as though Andrei wanted to transmit his own enjoyment quickly to others. And they feel like a fond farewell.

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson, 2006 (Photo courtesy the Belgrade Bookshop)

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson, 2006 (Photo courtesy the Belgrade Bookshop)

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 

 

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

Polaroid by Andrei Tarkovsky from the book Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson.

 
 

Instant Light-Tarkovsky Polaroids

 

 

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson, 2006 (Photo courtesy Constellation Cafe)

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids from Thames and Hudson, 2006 (Photo courtesy Constellation Cafe)

 

“Modern mass culture, aimed at the ‘consumer’, the civilisation of prosthetics, is crippling people’s souls,” wrote Tarkovsky, “setting up barriers between man and the crucial questions of his existence, his consciousness of himself as a spiritual being.”

Tarkovsky’s work is infused with spirituality—a larger sense of connectedness, a sense of found beauty in an imperfect world.

“What is art?,” asked Tarkovksy. “Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other. A confession. An unconscious act that none the less reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.”

If you’d like to explore the world of Tarkovsky further, Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids and Sculpting in Time: The Great Russian Filmmaker Discusses His Art are available here or in your local bookstore.

 

Instant Light-Tarkovsky Polaroids-Belgrade Bookshop-Click to Purchase

 

 

tarkovsky-Polaroid Mosaic-riowang

 

 

Tarkovsky-Sculpting in Time-Click to Purchase

 

 

An Update on the Gwarlingo Membership Drive

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By | 2016-11-11T21:50:12+00:00 05.09.13|Greatest Hits, Images|8 Comments

About the Author:

I'm a writer, photographer, and the creator of Gwarlingo, a crowd-funded arts & culture journal that covers contemporary art, music, books, film, and the creative process. I’ve spent nearly 20 years as an arts enabler, helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I’ve also done time at an arts magazine, a library, and an art museum in Atlanta. For two years I cared for injured eagles, hawks, and owls at a raptor rehabilitation center in Vermont. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, consulting, and creative projects full-time. (You can check out my recent projects here.) I’ve appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, served as the judge for A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Literary Prize, and received fellowships from the Hambidge Center and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. My writing and photography have appeared in RISD XYZ magazine, 2Paragraphs, Psychology Today, Born Journal, and other publications. I offer one-on-one coaching sessions, group workshops, and speak to businesses, arts groups, and students about overcoming the psychological and practical barriers to producing your best work. (Read more here .) If you'd like to work with me one-on-one or hire me to speak at your school, business, or organization, please contact me at michelle (at) gwarlingo (dot) com. -

8 Comments

  1. Robert E. Aldrich Jr. May 10, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Dear Michelle Aldredge:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this piece about Andrei Tarkovsky. Thank you! A short while ago I was reading another good piece about film and photographs in Poetry magazine. If you would like to read it, it’s in the latest issue (May) of Poetry found here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org. It’s a piece by V. Penelope Pelizzon titled: Light Speaking: Notes on Poetry and Photography.

    Again, thank you, and thank you for Gwarlingo!

    p.s. I would love to donate, but am unable to do so. I am truly sorry.

    • Michelle Aldredge May 10, 2013 at 7:16 am

      I didn’t see this piece in Poetry magazine, Robert, but I’m very interested. Thanks so much for the heads up. I’m glad you enjoyed the Tarkovsy post. I found his images stunning and surprising when I discovered them.

      There’s absolutely no pressure to donate to Gwarlingo, but I appreciate the thought. I hope you’ll be a regular reader.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. […] –I found it here […]

  3. […] Aldredge posts a gallery of Tarkovsky’s Poloroids, as blurry and mysterious as you’d expect. Via John […]

  4. […] lastly, even Andrei Tarkovsky’s Polaroids were stunning. I wonder what he would have made of […]

  5. […] The Polaroids of Andrei Tarkovsky. […]

  6. Roger Thorp January 8, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Dear Michelle…

    I have just enjoyed your article on the polaroids of Andrei Tarkovsky. Great! It succinctly offers a brief insight into the great man. I sent a link to my son who has just started film school. I’m looking forward to exploring your site more in the future. Very best wishes, Roger Thorp

Comments are closed.