Kiosks, newsstands or mini-shops tell you a lot about a place. The shopping experience here is more authentic than in large retail chains due to the people who cherish and care for their very special spaces. For his series of works entitled The Guardians, Vladimir Antaki traveled across Europe, the Middle East and America, photographing shopkeepers or “Guardians”; keepers of what Antaki terms “urban temples”, unique spaces which, in an age of cookie-cutter, corporate shops, hearken back to an earlier time and mode of urban life.
Antaki creates visually arresting portraits of the Guardians in their urban temples that make the viewer connect to the beauty of these often forgotten spaces. Antaki believes that these temples are the heart and soul of every city; they are what gives the urban center its uniqueness in time and place. There is also a duty of memory associated with these spaces because so many of them are closing.
The book published by Kehrer is a collection of portraits and statements by 45 shop owners and craftsmen from Beirut, Berlin, Bordeaux, Istanbul, London, Mexico City, Miami, Montréal, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Venice Beach. We have a preview here on GoSee, and more is available on Vimeo.
From the foreword by Edward Burtynsky: “Through his photographic survey, Antaki addresses the social value and fragile nature of individualized work in an increasingly homogenized, consumerist society. In our highly technological era, where the past is quickly forsaken by a lust for the newest, latest, and greatest, the economic conditions supporting those purveyors of our quirky cultural ‘heirlooms’ are gradually becoming more tenuous. Work places themselves are increasingly democratized, depersonalized and scaled-up for the sake of commercial efficiency. The artist sees this, and he responds. The Guardians tell their stories, but also implicit in these images is the close association of each person to the articles they have surrounded themselves with, which prompts us to consider the psychological relationship between each subject and their created environment. Antaki steps deeply into the treasured realms of these individuals. With his acute perception of the present moment and a gentle curiosity, he eloquently takes stock, allowing us privileged access to the idiosyncratic wealth of the Guardians.”
Vladimir Antaki (*1980 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) grew up in Paris and studied art history and film at La Sorbonne. In 2003, Antaki moved to Montréal, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual and media arts from UQÀM in 2007. The Guardians was exhibited in public places in France, Canada and the US. It won an Infopresse Lux prize in 2013 and was selected to represent Canada in The Other Hundred, a photo-book curated by the Global Institute For Tomorrow. In 2018, The Guardians was on display at TheAlternative and at Institut Français in Beirut, Lebanon.