Using colours usually brings too much reality to photographs; but it is not the case of Vladim?r Birgus's photographs, into which colours bring abstract elements.
Large areas in dominant colours bring unrealistic atmosphere to them, so that they remind us of abstract paintings more than of reality recordings. The author makes use of spatial construction with the aid of flat geometric spots, but his work remains provably photographic. He ignores the rules of painting composition by leaving parts of figures and other objects outside of the field of vision, putting together near and distant space elements.
A combination of abstract-painting and quasi-reportage elements in one photograph brings about a very intensive impression of unreality. The figures, depicting realistic-looking people in movement or gesturing, make an impression of being located in a fictitious space of an abstract painting defined by flat colour-spots. Everyday view of a street, so well-known to all of us, thus acquires a new meaning. Things we know well - and take for granted - become mysterious and unknown.
In scenes that at first sight look random or unexpected we find a specific accord of forms in a surreal world. Two similar women walking on a Chicago street, one of them depicted from behind and the other from the front, look as if they were mirror images of the same person. Shadows of two people walking down the stairs from the Eiffel Tower are peculiar copies of a woman in red dress who is walking upstairs. A large orange spot high on the wall on a photo from Gorzów, is a "copy" of the ball played with by a small boy. We can also see here shadows of the boy and the ball, which seem to be parts of a different reality since the ball is higher than the boy's hand, and not lower as it should be.
Shadows play an important role in most of Birgus's photos. They represent a strange world, parallel to and as real as the one full of light and colours. Let us have a look at the Rovinje photo: we can see three shadows on the right hand side of the picture, and the photographer's shadow in the central part, continuing into the black depth in the middle, between two bright-red areas - we witness here the world of light and the world of shadows, and these two worlds are mutually intertwined, blended and amplified. A Miami Beach dancer's photograph shows real objects and their shadows in a nearly symmetrical arrangement, as if mirror images that are imperfect copies of each other; a shadow can be a reflection of a real object or of another shadow...
Vladim?r Birgus is a master of creations that indicate several different facts in one picture. A similar effect can be and usually is achieved by a photomontage of several negatives. His, however, are non-manipulated, "clean" photos. His pictures' motifs usually follow several plans, and each of them makes an impression of being brought from a completely different time-space. Let us take an example of five Barcelona jugglers, where we can see five separately moving figures in five different time-spaces.
Watching Vladim?r Birgus's photos that seem to catch a situation "on the move," we may feel that the story hidden behind them could be easily reconstructed, as if they were just freeze-frames of a movie. Well, it is not so. If we make an attempt at such a "reconstruction," we will immediately find out that there is no relationship between the figures and the story, it is more like freeze-frames of several movies put together, a sort of an "anti-movie," which interprets the reality not as a linear "cause-and-effect" sequence, but rather as several time-spatial frames coexisting in parallel.
Vladim?r Birgus's photographs, which express existence of "two parallel worlds," ultimately bring about cognition that is truer and more real than that displayed in an apparently realistic film, which finds artificial links between unattached facets of the complicated reality we live in. In another, deeper meaning the photographs reveal a different kind of parallel variability of worlds. This deeper meaning can be found if we watch several persons in a random group of anonymous passers-by: each of them represents his/her individual perception of the world. Still another meaning is hidden in the mysterious substance of reality, in which objects and their shadows create two intertwined worlds existing within rules we know nothing about. Finally, there is a meaning connected with the uncertain roots of our perceptions, in which real facts are blended with illusions - what we take for a direct contact may be a visual image, an abstraction we create in an effort to view and understand the world around us.
© Vladimir Birgus. Barcelona, 2002
© Vladimir Birgus. Miami Beach, 1999