Photographer Boris Mäemets


I went to see fashion photographer Boris Mäemets exhibition at Estonian Museum Of Applied Art And Design in September 2017. 

Boris Mäemets (1929) was fashion photographer during Soviet Estonia between 1959 and 1975. The beginning of his career started in the first advertising bureau of Estonia, after he had spend couple of years in Siberia because of resisting the Soviet occupation. Mäemets took photographs of exhibitions and interiors as well, but the main focus was in fashion. He signed a contract of Tallinn Fashion House, what published fashion periodical Siluett in 1967. In the beginning of 1970’s Siluett’s print run was more than 50 000 copies in Estonia and Russian edition ran to 300 000 copies.

Siluett included compulsory reverence to the Soviet ideology, but Mäemets’s photographs had clear propaganda about Western fashion and way of life. Photo shoots took place in Tallinn’s Old Town, natural settings, in front of modern buldings, various interiors and exhibition halls. Mäemets liked to shoot with Kodak’s wide film and one scene would usually take about 12 frames.

Vogue and other Western fashion magazines were purchased from antique shops and sent by relatives who had fled to the West. In Siluett they didn’t accept bold poses but Mäemets’ archive reveals that the expressive poses and models flirting with the camera was his main subject of interest. Mäemets preferred Helle Ryzhova and Faime Jürno from the fashion house’s models.

In 1975 Mäemets started take photographs to Leningrad’s fashion house where was offered better working conditions, professional studio. The exhibition “In front and behind the lens” showed photos that were published in Siluett and also photos what pleased only Mäemets. Photos tell a story of one of the most important eras of Estonian fashion.