Close and Far//Russian Photography Now//Calvert 22

Photo by Alexander Gronsky, Suburbs of Moscow, 2010

Photo by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, Haying at the (Leushinsky) Monastery, Views Along the Mariinsky Canal and river system, 1909

Photo by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, Studies on Lindozero (Laika, dog) Views along the Murmansk railway, 1915

Photo by me

Calvert 22 is a gallery which showcases the work of Russian and Eastern European artists. This exhibition, from a new generation of photographers and video artists, explores identity and place in early 21st century Russia. It features work by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, whose colour images of pre-revolutionary Russia are exhibited for the first time in the UK. The exhibition also includes the work of Alexander Gronsky, Dimitri Venkov, Taus Makhacheva, Olya Ivanova and Max Sher.

“When Nicholas II, the last tsar, personally commissioned Prokudin-Gorsky, an early pioneer of colour photography, to document his vast empire he presided over the largest territory in the world. Today, Russia is still a land of dramatic extremes and diversity. Where Prokudin-Gorsky witnessed first-hand the effects of galloping colonisation and the early stirrings of industrialisation, today’s artists work in the aftermath of the empire’s collapse, grappling both with its past and future.” Calvert 22 

I thought that there were some very stunning images in this exhibition and for someone that has never been to Russia before it was interesting to see the Russian locals against the background of everyday landscapes from the Russian artists’ point of view. I particularly enjoyed the landscape work of Alexander Gronsky, from the series of work called Pastoral. The photos are of the “edge-lands’, neither rural nor urban, an area which often gets overlooked by photographers. He captures the untidiness of the Moscow suburbs, from the unsightly buildings, to the unkept grass and rubbish, and contrasts it with how the locals use the space for leisure, with activities such as sunbathing and barbecuing. His images show "how people use – and abuse – the precious green spaces available to them”.The Guardian 

I found this exhibition to be an eye opening view of a side of Russia that is very rarely seen or photographed. It focuses on the everyday, in-between area of the edge-lands and ordinary people’s activities there. In addition, the colour images of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, peel back the historical layers of the landscape and bring the images to life again.