"Five years after the retrospective exhibition of Ukrainian artist Boris Mikhailov (in 2003) Fotomuseum Winterthur presented another leading Russian-Ukrainian artist of the next generation: Sergey Bratkov. The exhibition included some 130 works, giving a deep insight into Bratkov’s photographic oeuvre since 1990. Socially critical, politically motivated and yet with a lyrical edge, his photographs are a direct and at times unsparing portrayal of everyday life since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bratkov, who was born in the Ukrainian industrial city of Kharkov, lays bare the obsolete ideological clichés of the Soviet era and the newfound muscle-flexing capitalist drive of the east in scenes that occasionally evoke a strident theatre of the new reality. His documentary portraits of secretaries, soldiers, former seamen, steelworkers, homeless children and women who want to start a family cite the hallmarks of socialism by ostensibly classifying individuals in stereotype images. But what Sergey Bratkov seeks in his portraiture is not the conformity of the group, behind which the individual might be able to hide. Instead, his photographs launch a provocative jibe at post-Soviet society by deliberately flouting aesthetic and moral taboos. By heightening the scenes he observes with irony and subjectivity, Sergey Bratkov invents a new form of Socialist Realism in his photographs, unmasking critical socialism as fictitious and ideologically defunct."