This series represents married couples where men are much older than women. Such commonplace unions may provoke our critical reaction, bringing to mind Pukirev’s “Misalliance” or, in the worst case, force us to visually interfere into the scene, to become peepers, when, as the New York Times photo-critic Andy Grundberg wrote, “from viewers, we are made into voyeurs”.
Esipovich expects a different interpretation. She depicts happy couples. She does not ignore the environment – we may recall a typically squalid interior in one shot or the alarming avant-garde surroundings in another. The eloquent milieu of the dwellings always plays its role – it questions the self-estimate and the self-presentation of the sitters, who, even though the author does not hide her preference for staged compositions, always have the opportunity to fully express themselves. These stories are highly individual.
The principal driving force behind Esipovich’s visual narratives is the texture of psychological relations between her models, of harmony and dissonance. Decades ago surrealistic photography, actively involved with the psychical, often used the technique of doubling, even though the goal of the surrealists was to stress the mirror-effect of the camera, which created the twin image of what existed in reality. The double portraits made by Esipovich have a different message, even though she also uses the doubling motive.

Here the metaphor of the mirror-image is manifested in the way the models co-exist, in how they position themselves towards one another in space, in how they reflect (not so much in the mimetic sense, but psychologically-emotionally) one another. In her best works, the artist grasps these relations not by showing postures (frequently the woman stands at a distance, re-reflecting the energy aimed at her), but in spatial pauses, caesuras.
So, happy couples… But what about the problem of burdens, inevitable in the flow of any life, particularly in the lives of people who are so different in terms of age? My opinion is that the artist grasps the essence of this drama. Thank God it is not something represented by a straightforward “story” that we can see in these pictures. Similarly, it is not illustrated by the setting, nor by a specifically depicted mood, showing some overt emotion (the mood of the sitters is intentionally devoid of any dynamics – just typological states of reflection and self-analysis). The principal role of representing the burdens of life (almost in the exact sense of the word) is played out by the figures themselves. Esipovich knows how, using some minimal means in terms of composition and plasticity, to place the sitters within the space, to coordinate (or dis-coordinate) them in relation to each other and to the viewer. The result is that life’s burdens (commonplace-everyday and global-existential, intensified by the age difference) are visualized practically in a direct form – as a burden, as a load.

Alexander Borovsky

Head of the department of contemporary art State Russian Museum