I've worked across several creative disciplines, photography being one of them. I left university with a degree in Industrial Design but have spent most of my working life in the feature film and advertising industries (for TV commercials and stills) starting as a model-maker and later progressing to physical special effects supervisor.
I've also designed and built large architectural sculptures and was even a freelance concept designer for a factory in mainland China for a few years.
These days I am following my own photographic fine art ideas and travel-themed creative exploits, particularly to do with Russia. This image series is part of the larger exploration of those ideas.
I’ve won a few awards for some of my photography, most notably in the Wild Places category of the 2010 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards (BBC, London Natural History Museum), but also for earlier versions of some of the images seen here (AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards 2011, 2012).
A result of my interest in Russia was being given the role of special effects supervisor on the Russian film Kandagar (2010), which was based on true events. It chronicles the story of an Ilyushin-76 cargo plane crew captured by the Afghan Taliban and held prisoner for over a year in Kandahar before their daring escape with the aircraft.
We filmed it in Morocco with an Ilyushin-76 from Transavia Export in Belarus. You can watch the film’s trailer below.
I'm looking forward to many more adventures in Russia, particularly to do with aviation and aerospace and I'll be presenting those in the future, as well as adding to the Art of Avia and Art of Monino series.
You can see my photography, film, art and design website at www.kentmiklenda.com
the central air force museum
THE CENTRAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM
The Central Air Force Museum is located 40km or so from Moscow, it is colloquially referred to as the 'Monino Museum', however Monino is actually the name of the town and the adjacent military airfield. The Museum's full official title is the Central Museum of the Air Forces of the Russian Federation, a name which usually gets abbreviated or recombined in various ways for expediency, usually the ‘Central Air Force Museum’.
Many of the aircraft in the museum performed their last touchdown at Monino airfield before being towed to the display area to be kept for posterity, and to undergo eventual restoration.
Originally an operational airbase the museum was formally created in 1958 to house not only military but also civilian aviation collections, and it is widely regarded as one of the most significant aviation museums in the world.
Showcasing a vast collection of exhibits and aircraft, it is one of the prime destinations for anybody interested in Soviet and Russian aviation, and worthwhile seeing even if one is not - after a first visit a Russian friend of mine came away with a new-found respect for their country's technical heritage, which is impressively on display here.
The Central Air Force Museum has undergone extensive renovation over the last few years and now incorporates a world-class visitor's and exhibition centre. In the early days you had to phone in with your passport details and get permission to enter the military zone wherein lay the museum. Now there is an open access road and even a parking area for tour buses, such have been the changes.
The museum also contains large workshops where the aircraft undergo restoration by a dedicated crew of volunteers and contributors. Some of the major aircraft design bureaus are also partners with the museum.
There are many English language references on the web re Monino Museum but the main museum site is at moninomuseum.ru (Russian language).
In my mind no visit to Moscow is complete without seeing this outstanding museum.
Note : In November 2018 it was announced that the museum’s exhibits will be moved to Patriot Park in Kubinka from 2019. There is currently a fierce debate about the difficulty of keeping the heritage value of the larger aircraft intact. These aircraft cannot feasibly be disassembled, transported, and rebuilt whilst maintaining the original technical integrity, this is especially pertinent in the case of the planes that were originally flown to Monino.
the art of monino
THE ART OF AVIA - MONINO PROJECT
In a sense ‘The Art of Avia' project began decades ago, however for practical purposes it began a few years ago with the Art of Monino project which evolved over some years after I first visited the Central Air Force Museum. I’m still producing new work for it even now.
I’ve always been struck by the notion that the machines aggregated at the museum are like a collection of large-scale sculptures because observing them causes you to reflect upon what they embody through their design and engineering, their forms, and the imagination and intent from which they were created.
In the Art of Monino image series I've used a variety of post-production techniques to supply a range of styles, from isolating an aircraft alone in a landscape to allow for an undivided view of it, to images that frame the aircraft closer-up, allowing better observation of finer details.
I was lucky enough to photograph these aircraft before many of them underwent restoration. Lucky in the sense that the unrestored planes have textures and patinas that add much to the visual effect.
My use of composited images shows the aircraft in different environments and contexts than they are actually found at the museum.
The winter landscapes are used as a symbol for the Cold War, the era when many of the machines were conceptualized.
Below is my artist's statement about the photographic fine art series that I've produced after several visits:
"When I was young I had a small black and white photo book of Soviet aircraft which I used to pore over endlessly; fascinated by the mysterious and purposeful yet strangely attractive machines. The mystery and awe was enhanced by the secretive and enigmatic nature of the USSR that was hidden darkly behind the Iron Curtain.
Years later, after gaining a university degree in Industrial Design I went on to run a workshop making things for advertising, film and art, such was my attraction to the form, function, and signification of objects.
Aircraft as objects represent a kind of imaginative engineering artisan-ship and are ardently and unquestionably in the realm of Applied Art; one of the principle expressions of Industrial Design.
Soviet and Russian aircraft in particular embody such a degree of design intent and ambitious engineering born from a conceptually heroic imagination that they seem to transcend the mundane machine world and verge on Fine Art. Thus, like all good art they are capable of evoking thoughts and feelings of profound ideas beyond their immediate material presence.
However, there still remains something brutally industrial and rudimentary in the construction of these eastern-bloc aircraft and to see one close-up is to be confused by the utilitarian and seemingly roughly-wrought construction, ‘these things can't possibly fly’ you think, but such initial impressions belie the incredible sophistication inherent in the aircraft design, and fly they did indeed.
The Central Museum of the Air Force at Monino which is situated some forty kilometres from Moscow houses a significant and rare collection of Soviet and Russian aviation history. I've photographed some of these aircraft, many before their restoration.
Through this series of images, I am trying to convey the fierce beauty and aged elegance embodied in the machines that have come to rest here. The faded paint and weathered metal patinas still evident on some of the aircraft actually add to the artistic impression.
One can sense a profound history with the struggle for technical achievement against tremendous odds writ large upon the aircraft seen in the remarkable collection at Monino.
Despite often using vivid colour, this photographic series is in a way an homage created in later life to a small book of black and white photographs that captivated and inspired a youthful imagination many years ago