Russian landscape

It has been several years now that the photo competition and outdoor photo exhibition “Russian landscape” is being organized between early September and mid-October in Moscow, on the Red Square. This year, ninety pictures were judged and selected for exhibition, in four categories: “Classic landscape”, “My landscape”, “Built landscape”, “Man and landscape”, and again the same four categories for young photographers.

Russian photo is today in the vanguard of the world. Based on a great tradition, in the past few decades it has elaborated a unique, at the same time very professional and very intimate style, which has been spread and further developed through an intensive community life and education, a multitude of master schools, high-quality mass publications, forums and blogs. And the driving industry of this style is landscape photography. It is therefore worth to pay attention to this exhibtion.

What is Russian photo like on the basis of the exhibited photos? First of all, foggy. Misty. Vaporous. The indeterminacy caused by the atmospheric conditions is an important part of several pictures. No wonder Ivan Dementievsky, one of the talented exhibitors, writes that “fog is the photographer’s friend”, and no wonder that last summer, during the extensive Russian wildfires they immediately announced a photo competition on smoke-covered Russian landscape.

This is not independent from that compositional strategy, taken over from traditional Far Eastern landscapes, that only one detail of the picture, a dominant motif often carrying metaphorical associations, emerges in an almost hyper-realistic sharpness, and the greater or at least a substantial part of the image is dominated by emptiness, the fog, the water, the sky, the landscape receding into shadow or mist, to be filled out by the onlooker by thinking further the main motif. This is also where the meditative mood, so characteristic of Russian photos, comes from.

And also from plainness. A great virtue of Russian photo is that it focuses only on a few visual elements, extracting the nuances inherent in them, laying the least possible emphasis on the photographer’s presence. The death of this kind of photography is manipulation, exaggerated conceptuality, the insistence on extravagant points of view – although it almost always works with striking points of view as an inheritance of early Russian avant-garde photography, or with slightly raised box perspective, akin to Japanese woodcuts –, or pushing in the forefront the photographer’s personality and interpretations. Not that we do not see such things in Russian photos, especially at beginners, but in most cases they make the image weaker.

From this it also follows that Russian photo, in spite of its great originality and boldness, is basically conservative, or if you like, classic. Which has its own safety and predictable effects, but also its danger: that it slides into postcard-like clichés. This can be seen also in some of the exhibited photos, curiously enough in several winners, which also hallmarks the taste of the jury.

Below you can see all the photos exhibited, in four thematic groups. As a fifth group, we combined all the four categories of the young photographers into one, because they are not too many. Each group begins with the separate pictures of the first and second place of the category, followed by a mosaic containing all the rest, and finally the photo which I liked the most in that group, so if I criticize the taste of the jury, you could also criticize mine.

Which one do you like the most?

Landscape photo of the year: Alexandr Ermolitsky: The silence of the stones. Krasnoyarsk Territory, “Ergaki” Natural Park, Mechta (Dream) Lake, August 2010

Classic landscape:

Vladimir Kirillov: On a frosty bank. Shatursky Lake, Shatura, December 2010

Mikhail Vershinin: Watercolor of Sheregesh. Kemerovo region, Mountain Shoria, Sheregesh, rocks, December 2010

Ivan Dementievsky: Sakhalin. Sakhalin Island, Okhotsk Sea, September 2009

My landscape:

Andrei Ivanov: In the bonds of the tree. Moscow, Yakhroma district, February 2008

Igor Georgievsky: Dream lentil. Chukotka, Mount Keynyney, Pegtymel River’s valley, July 2008

Oleg Grachev: Dawn in Japanese style. Southern Ural, Muradymov Gorge, August 2010

Built landscape:

Irina Khovrina: Piter. St. Petersburg, November 2009

Alexandr Alexeev: Victory Park. Moscow, metro station Victory Park, March 2009

Alexandr Alexeev: Winter. St. Petersburg, February 2010

Landscape and man:

Mikhail Vershinin: “Dragon’s Tooth” Peak, Ergaki. Krasnoyarsk Territory, Ergaki Natural Park, August 2008

Sergei Rumyantsev: Fishing. From the series “Children of the margins”. Moscow, February 2011

Eduard Kutygin: Where are the pools which seemed seas in our childhood? Urals, Kurgan Region, Shadrinsk District, Vorobevka, October 2010

Young landscape photographers:

Young landscape photographer of the year: Anastasia Iskantseva: Lace. Moscow, December 2010

Alexei Rumyantsev: Spring in Mstera. Mstera, Vladimir Region, April 2011

The exhibition shows primarily the works of arrived-in photographers – when a good photo blogger was asked in a comment whether his picture also features there, he reverently answered: “Oh, there are only photographers with a capital P”. It is worth noting the names: in the coming years we will meet them for sure. We will also present soon many of them in separate posts.

But the organizers also keep in mind the photographers with a minuscule p, for whom they have organized a paparazzi competition for the period of the exhibition, to take pictures on the visitors and their reactions. It is nice to see that the inhabitants of Moscow use the beautiful landscapes for their true purpose: to take pictures of each other in front of them.

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