Borut Peterlin, You remained a part of this landscape, part of its beauty and pain
Borut Peterlin graduated in 1998 from the FAMU Academy in Prague (Filmová a televizní fakulta Akademie múzických umění v Praze) and went on to graduate studies in photography at London College of Printing. He also gained professional experience at the Benetton Fabrica in Italy. To date he has explored several aspects of photographic media, ranging from the field of artistic expression, in which he was rooted by the artistically focused FAMU, to commercial photography, where his originality of expression was largely overlooked. In almost two decades of work as a professional photographer he has developed several heterogeneous projects: Fairy Tales from Gorjanci, colour photographs as a commentary for the collection of stories by Janez Trdina; creative portraits for the Mladina magazine section Striptiz; 5 AM, a daily visual documentation of selected work of the day; and Flower Power, a conceptual and satirical insight into the Slovenian political environment. His last two projects, A Father’s Tale and The Great Depression, were created at least in part as the fruit of researching photographic processes from the second half of the 19th century. The first is an intimate insight into the joys and fears that stem from his own experience of fatherhood, and the second portrays disused and decaying Slovenian industrial structures and comments on the economic state of his homeland, which is dealing with the consequences of recession. All that remained of collapsed enterprises was the architectural shells and a nostalgic memory of “other times”. The project The Great Depression was nominated for an Arendt Award as part of the European Month of Photography in Luxembourg. Although Peterlin’s projects seem very diverse, they all bear the creator’s narrative of an observer of the environment who uses photography to convey a sensing of the times in which we live. It seems that by ending a given project, Peterlin also closes some chapter in his creative process.
Between 2001 and 2007 he was artistic director of Fotopub, the festival of documentary photography, which drew many big names in the world of photography to Slovenia. For several years he also worked as a photographer and photographic editor for the weekly magazine Mladina, creating portraits of Slovenian cultural figures for it. Peterlin’s process of work, which he brought to a new milestone in creativity, could only be presented through a long introduction. As a technically very proficient photographer, beginning with his graduate studies in London he was drawn to the extraordinary quality of photographs from the times when it was still in its infancy and merely an accessory to the reproduction of reality (a photocopying device), and not an autonomous creative medium. This involved the collodion wet plate process on glass, invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer, which enabled rich and deep tonal values; it still cannot be surpassed today even by the most refined digital technology.
Using the collodion wet plate process Peterlin collaborated with the Museum of Recent History in Celje, which also houses the Pelikan Studio. Here he revived the method and technique of photography used by the famous Slovenian portrait photographer Josip Pelikan. At the same time he pondered the possibility of using this historical technique as a medium of artistic expression in the idiom of modern photography.
Since the collodion wet plate process is a very demanding manual process, with long exposure times, it is not suitable for recording brief time sequences such as sporting events or for photojournalism, so in his own environment the photographer uses these antique processes to photograph the landscape. The collodion wet plate process involves the use of large glass plates, which the photographer renders chemically sensitive to light just a few moments before taking the photograph with a large format camera. He also makes creative use of all the faults and defects that arise in the process, thereby enhancing the photographs with a feeling of nostalgia, the past and transience. Photographs created in this way, spattered with chemical stains, cracked emulsion and the accidental reactions of chemicals, are very reminiscent of their historical equivalents. Tree crowns and running water are captured in silky softness, which results from the long exposure times required by the process.
At Rajhenburg Castle, Borut Peterlin is exhibiting a series in which he explores the different potentials of landscape photography. They were all taken at various locations in the Dolenjska region using a large format camera and 19th century photographic processes. After finishing work in commercial photography, which robbed him of his inspiration and enjoyment of the medium, Peterlin turned his attention (and camera) to the rich, transient and idyllic landscape. He modifies his work by hand, retouching certain parts of the photo. For him this is a conceptual modification of the negative, through which he records an invisible memento of some event on the photograph. He deliberately selects historic locations, and imbues them with a dark mystery and riddles that viewers must unravel for themselves. The title of the exhibition is based on a quote from Tone Pavček carved onto Jakac’s gravestone. Peterlin seeks to draw out the lyrical and tragic dimensions of the Dolenjska landscape using archaic techniques from the 19th century. He photographs the landscape where everything begins and ends and then cyclically revolves again.
Borut Peterlin was born in 1974 in Koper. After finishing Secondary Technical and Health School in Novo Mesto, specialising in woodworking techniques, between 1994 and 1998 he studied at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague, from 2000 to 2001 he worked at Fabrica, the research and communication centre of the Benetton Group in Italy, and from 2002 to 2003 he pursued graduate studies in photography at the London College of Printing (LCP) in the United Kingdom. He has collaborated with numerous international agencies and magazines, including Contrasto, Colors Magazine, Gente and Amica. From 2006 to 2010 he was photographic editor at the weekly magazine Mladina. He also helped start and served as creative director of the Fotopub festival of photography, which was held between 2001 and 2007 in Novo Mesto.
He has presented his work at numerous group and solo exhibitions at home and around the world: Konica-Minolta Gallery, Tokyo, Japan/ K2 Gallery, Izmir, Turkey / Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany / Host Gallery, London, UK / Kaunas Photo Festival, Lithuania / Doland Museum, Shanghai, China / Photo Fringe Festival, Krakow, Poland / Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
2 September 2016 – 27 August 2017
Issued and published by Krško Cultural Centre, represented by Darja Planinc, Director
Exhibition of work by Borut Peterlin
Exhibition curator Nina Sotelšek
Exhibition set up by Borut Peterlin and Nina Sotelšek
Text by Nina Sotelšek
Text revision Irena Destovnik
English translation: Amidas d.o.o.
Design Polona Zupančič, Mikado
Printed by Kolortisk
Print run 300 copies
Krško, September 2016
Exhibition made possible by:
Krško Municipality and Krško Cultural Centre, Rajhenburg Castle Unit