THE GUARDIANS was born from Vladimir Antaki’s desire to document and pay tribute to these people, these "guardians of urban temples" that we meet everyday without really noticing.
His approach is based on a principle of hazardous perambulation in every city that he visits. The initial idea is to have no more benchmark and enter spontaneously in places where the visual attraction is strong. He likes to see every city as a maze in which he enjoys getting lost and finding these treasures.
These places are sometimes magical, overloaded with elements, colours and stories, guarded by these characters who are sometimes touching, funny, quirky, and at times frightening.
The photos that he takes are often the only memory that this Guardian will have of him/herself in their daily environment. This photo can be the only visual record of the existence of this place, the only photographic memory.
People pay less and less attention to their environment. They are always in a hurry, they don't allow themselves to spend time with one another. They are constantly looking for ways to “save time and money”, that’s why they’d rather shop in large malls where all types of businesses are centralized instead of encouraging their local shops.
Yes malls and supermarkets are convenient and they make you save money because small shops cannot compete with large stores on price and variety of selection, but they are also so sterile, impersonal and boring and where you don’t get to meet these characters.
Unfortunately, these places will one day no longer be around. This is one of the reasons that compelled me to want to document these "Guardians".
So far, Antaki has visited 17 cities (Montreal, New York, Las Vegas, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Beirut, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Bordeaux, Marrakesh, Fes, Miami, Toronto and Philadelphia) and met more than 300 Guardians.
Each picture is taken during his first encounter with the Guardian and he doesn’t interfere with the space.
Once contact is established, a link is created or not. Sometimes he leaves with a small gift from the person, an anecdote, or just their portrait.
A photographic moment based on a brief exchange with these individuals. Antaki tries to make the audience feel the personality of the place and the owner.
He is interested in the relationship between the environment and the attitude of the Guardians, how they position themselves in their own space. He becomes the director of their universe and shows them their day to day life through his eye and his camera.
He wants people to realize that these places are the heart and soul of the city. That they are filled with passion and stories managed by these keepers of a tradition and a memory.
The Guardians is also an urban installation. He covers empty windows of shops for rent with life-size prints of different Guardians, in order to create an ambiguity in the urban landscape and try to raise awareness on the progressive disappearance of these shops.