Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A journey along the edges of Russia

Until most recently, my interest in Russia was rather limited. There are the writers that I adore – Dostoyevsky, Tolstoi, Chekhov and Gogol – and there are thrillers like Gorky Park that I'm fond of. And then, on short trips to Latvia and Estonia, countries with a high percentage of Russians, I became somewhat curious in things Russian and increasingly suspicious of the propaganda wars that dominate the mass media.

However, what primarily attracted me to Maria Gruzdeva's Border is my fascination for borders, these highly artificial constructs that we are made to believe in and to generally respect.

The border that Russian-born (1989) photographer Maria Gruzdeva, based in London, journeyed along is 60,000 kilometers, I learn from Dina Gusejnova's foreword, „a rough figure which includes the maritime borders; just over 20'000 if you count the land border only.“

How does one photograph such a border? Or differently put: How does one photograph a concept? By going out of the house and look for its physical manifestations: a barbed wire fence, an armed border patrol, a flag, coast guards etc. etc. Maria Gruzdeva also chose to photograph landscapes, goverment buildings, officials, landing piers, coastlines, forests, crosses, playing children ... In fact, when you know that she is photographing the Russian border you will automatically see the Russian border, almost regardless of what you are shown. It is the information that we bring to the picture tat defines how we see it.

Maria's journey started in Abkhazia. "Once you cross the border you immediately find yourself in another country. The Abkhazians have their own language and their own alphabet. Signs and street names tend to be trilingual (Abkhaz-Russian-Georgian)."

For the full review, see here

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