A guide to the New East

Gone girl: dreams and disappearance in the Russian woods

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 Christina Abdeeva belongs to a new generation of Russian female visual narrators. Currently based in Paris, the 24-year-old photographer has shot for Russian Vogue, Port and Esquire, developing a multilayered storytelling style always fronted by a female protagonist. Abdeeva's characters are lost girls, with no desire to be found: both fragile and empowered, dreamy and self-aware. Abdeeva's aesthetic involves breathtakingly cinematic settings, rich light and dramatic composition, making her one of the most striking artists in a new wave of Russian female visual talent that also includes Masha Demianova and Olya Ivanova. In this story shot exclusively for The Calvert Journal, Abdeeva tracks the adventures of her heroine Nastya through the fading of summer in the Russian countryside. 

It began after I'd watched Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast and become greatly inspired by his mystical world. It made me think about the story of transition states, when a person moves from reality into a dreamlike place. 

After I saw portraits of Nastya and talked to her a bit, I knew there would also be a touch of the aesthetic style embraced in Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. She looked just like one of those dreamy lost girls.

I wanted to immerse myself in the story, become a part of this tale. So we took a train to the countryside and spent a weekend at the house of Nastya's boyfriend's grandparents.  It was August. Nature was blooming. We picked apples and plums under the trees, they were everywhere.

I woke her up at 7am and we cycled to the river and into the forest. There were no people at all. We were truly removed from the outside world.

In some ways this story is my homage to Russian nature which is so painfully beautiful, and to the summer which was just about to end.

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