Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Alexander Petrosyan: 9th May

Alexander Petrosyan: 9th May

Let us Finish the Race

by Erna Buber-deVilliers

Before you read on, please take a minute or two to look at this image and allow it to speak to you.

What do you see? And more importantly: what do you feel?

I was browsing through an on-line portfolio of the photographer’s work when I was arrested by this photograph. That crumpled face, that weeping child’s gesture of fist-to-eye made me want to comfort the person. The balloon, too, made me think of a child.

This person, however, is not a child. It is a badly dressed, tired old man in ill-fitting, rumpled clothes all alone in the middle of a very wide road. The balloon, the tatty bunch of flowers, the colourful ribbons holding clanking rows of medals, a hat that looks too small and legs that look too short for his heavy torso all work together to make him look clownish, a figure of fun. The people lining the street seem to be ignoring him, or even laughing at him, and I feel my ire rise. Have they no compassion?

My rational, adult mind tells me that this must be some kind of a parade, and that this man is part of it. Where is the rest of the parade? I can see that people are watching–but have they seen him? Have they seen this man? How far has he still to go? Will he make it?

One person did see him that day: the photographer who stopped and took the picture. Now you have seen him too, as have I. And in my heart there is a whisper: “I, too, have seen him. I know his name, as I know yours, Child. Know that I see you. My eye is upon you. I know how little strength you have, but you will finish the course ahead of you, because I am with you. If you stumble, I’ll be there. Courage! You will make it.”


9th May: The photographer wrote, ‘It was the Annual Victory Day Parade along the Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg. The day is celebrated in remembrance of the German act of capitulation to the Allies in Berlin that was signed at midnight (Russian time) on that day in 1945, at the end of WW II. Veterans with medals, children with flowers, brother-soldiers...  One of the veterans attracted my attention. It was clearly difficult for him to walk. He limped and was falling behind the others. Gradually, he was outdistanced until he was wandering alone. I looked in the viewfinder. From both sides of the avenue there were greetings and congratulations from the citizens. The veteran bowed, pressed his hand to his heart and repeated: “Thank you! Thank you!” Someone gave him flowers, someone gave a balloon. And then he began to cry. I, frankly, was ready to cry too – it was the most touching moment of any Victory Day I’ve ever photographed – and I’ve photographed plenty.’

Alexander Petrosyan is a Russian photographer who has lived in St Peterburg all his life. The city and its inhabitants are his constant inspiration, and he knows every inch of it. He was given a camera as a gift when he was a child, and he became a professional photographer in 2000. His work has been featured in publications like Newsweek and National Geographic

Erna Buber-deVilliers is a frequent contributor to ArtWay with many fascinating pieces. She is a retired South-African high school art teacher who enjoys writing and many other leisure pursuits.

ArtWay Visual Meditation May 7, 2017