PAVOL BREIER: SHEPHERDS OF ORAVA
In his project Shepherds of Orava, the renowned Slovak photographer Pavol Breier presents a unique photographic document of past and present in the life of an Orava pastoral community. This collection of portraits and landscapes spanning four decades of work offers a sociological visual study of the mountain shepherds of the Orava region.
The exhibition tells the story of the shepherds and herdsmen from Zázrivá with whom the artist is connected by several decades of friendship. The trust which the photographer has built and regular contact in the mountain sheepfolds have offered him a remarkable insight into the world of seasonal mountain pastoralism and also to the personal lives of its participants: in 2021 he visited former shepherds in their retirement. The confrontation of colourful contemporary portraits with black and white images from the past depicts the seemingly idyllic way of life of a slowly vanishing guild – that of traditional herding and “salašníctvo”, a form of seasonal mountain pastoralism unique to the Carpathian region. Breier remains true to the classical documentary form, and his “signature” approach is characterised by the use of wide lens shots and an almost cinematographic rendering of the scene. The exhibition mosaic lends a new look to a story which is at once both old and new – the cabinet arrangements of mementos of the past bring us closer to the “salašník” or mountain shepherd of the 1970s and his traditional pastoral life in an untouched landscape encircled dramatically by mountains, in dialogue with full colour, large-format evocative portraits from the present day.
Mountains and the lives lived in them have long been an inspiration for Breier, not only in Slovakia but also in the Himalayas, a region to which he returns regularly. Documentary photography is a pivotal genre in the artist’s work, together with a deep interest in social reflexion – mountain life and its similarities across borders have been intertwined in all of his work to date.
“My favourite theme is social documentary. I started to work with this long ago – in east Slovakia and Orava. Even today I still keep coming back to it in my work. It is interesting that the way of life among mountain folk is quite similar regardless of whether they live in Orava, below the Tatras or in the Himalayas. This is a result of the natural conditions and livelihoods in these regions in which pastoralism plays a dominant role.” (Pavol Breier)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pavol Breier (*1952) is a photographer, mountaineer, traveller and lecturer. He graduated in art photography from FAMU in Prague in 1974. The main focus of his work is documentary and reportage, landscape, advertising and theatrical photography. Since the 1970s he has created exhibition cycles on mountain themes, primarily focusing on the life of mountain folk and mountain nature (including the Orava, Pamir, Himalayas and Tibet cycles). He is the founder of the Kailás civic association where he leads and organises photography courses and workshops. His work has been presented in dozens of collective and individual exhibitions both in Slovakia and abroad (for example, in the Czech Republic, France, Belgium and Poland). His work has been published in photography magazines and he is the author and co-author of several fine art catalogues and photography books including Pamír [Pamir], Karpaty – Malé, Biele [The Carpathians - Little, White], Na streche sveta [On the Roof of the World], and Svet tibetského budhizmu [The World of Tibetan Buddhism]. Breier’s photographs are represented in the collections of the Gallery of Spiš Artists in Spišská Nová Ves, the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, the Orava Gallery in Dolný Kubín, the Kysucká Gallery in Čadca, the Ernest Zmeták Gallery in Nové Zámky, the National Gallery in Prague (CZ) and The Navigator Foundation in Boston (USA). He currently lectures at the Faculty of Pedagogy in Comenius University and the Pan-European University in Bratislava. He lives and works in Bratislava and Zázrivá. www.breier.sk
Mgr. Lucia Benická
Curator: Mgr. Lucia Benická – GUS
Production cooperation: Mgr. Lucia Benická, Mgr. Lenka Králová – GUS
Design: Mgr. art. Ivana Babejová, ArtD. – GUS
Translation: Gavin Cowper
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