Photographer Alexander Zhemchugov frequently travels across Russia to document breathtaking isolated locations often unknown to the outsiders. The Altai region, with its unique history, spirituality, and natural landscapes is one of his long-standing subjects. This picture was taken next to the village of Ust’-Kan, nestled amid the expansive steppe and a dramatic mountain backdrop. “This place could seem isolated and desolate, but actually it harbours history of ancient civilisations. Ancient tools dating back 100,000 years were discovered just under the mountain at the centre of the frame,” says the photographer.
Photographer Anna Pliusina took this photo of a sunset on Gogland Island in the Baltic Sea, capturing both the serenity and unique character of the remote location. The island is located at the junction between Russia, Estonia, and Finland’s maritime borders. Unreachable by public transport and closed to visitors, it is inhabited by a few families who maintain the lighthouse and the meteorological station.
Anastasia Soboleva took this photo in 2015 in Agoy in Russia’s Krasnodar region: a major holiday destination. Although busy, this shingle beach radiates serenity. For the photographer, staying by the coast provided the perfect opportunity for observation. “I love landscape photography because it allows us to capture the inner nature of the place. Our surroundings largely explain our behaviour, communication, and thinking, and influence cultural production. That’s why photographing landscapes has always been an important part of my practice,” Soboleva explains.
This photograph is part of Denis Zeziukin’s visual study of Stary Oskol, a Russian town located in Belgorod region in the country’s west. The streets of Oskol are a combination of urban planning templates from different time periods: the Soviet-era housing estates coexist with modern housing developments. “Stary Oskol is an example of modern Russia’s architectural eclecticism, a generalised image of a typical Russian city,” the photographer explains.
Photographer Vera Laponkina took this picture in the town of Gvardeysk in Russia’s Kaliningrad region in 2012. It is part of her project Ozerkita, an exploration of the Kaliningrad area and its complex history and cultural heritage — as well as its reflection in contemporary and frequently camp pseudo-historical architecture. The church in the photograph was once Lutheran before it was passed to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Maxim Amelchenko took this image in his home town of Mezhdurechensk in Russia’s Kemerovo region. It is one of the largest coal mining areas in the world, with new deposits being tapped into every year. In the meantime, locals reclaim abandoned and exhausted mines by turning them into recreational areas for picnics. Syrkashy Mountain in Mezhdurechensk is one such place where people come to see the sun set over the Kuznetsky Alatau Nature Reserve and the former Olzherasskiy open-pit mine. Amelchenko would come here often before he moved to Kemerovo and later Moscow, where he is now studying photography at the Rodchenko School of Art.
Anastasia Tsayder’s project Arcadia explores Russia’s urban green spaces and their history, to see how Soviet utopian ideas collided with our lived environment. “Conceived as a socialist paradise before being reclaimed by nature, the Soviet Union’s garden cities form the romantic landscape of the now post-Soviet inhabited space”, she explains. This photograph was taken in Tolyatti in southern Russia in 2016.
Maria Babikova took this photo of a smelting plant in the town of Karabash in the Chelyabinsk region in 2017. “Chelyabinsk is very industrial. Throughout my childhood, I grew up staring at the factory chimneys from my window”, she recalls. “But Karabash is on another level. It is a strange apocalyptic landscape, where trees and rivers are dead and the rocks crumble underneath your feet; the consequence of large-scale human consumption and environmental neglect.”
Petr Antonov took this photograph in Moscow in 2011 as part of his project, Trees, Cars, Figures of People, Assorted Barriers. It deals with the transformation of the post-Soviet urban landscape by exploring its most typical recurring elements. “The photograph shows a gated community on the banks of Moskva River. The 2000s residential high-rises tower above a football field, acting as a sort of a modern substitute for the majestic mountains that would loom above a hunting scene in a classical painting,” Antonov says. “I use a lot of landscape photography in my work, as man-made landscapes provide a very accessible key to the society as a whole”.
Dmitry Lookianov took this photograph in Russia’s Rostov region in 2014 for his project Intrinsic Journey. It marries both the mundane and the surreal, the monumental and the crumbling, the disrupted and the calm. Intrinsic Journey itself is a study of the landscape, which Lookianov compiled from 2012 to 2017 by exploring the notions of the tangible, ordinary and recordable around us.
Alexander Anufriev’s series New Moscow documents construction at the outskirts of the city. This photograph captures the precarious intersection of urban and natural spaces. Blocks of flats are built on a field which used to hold sewage waste, and the fertilised ground is now overgrown with wild flowers and vegetation, in some places sprouting taller than the people tasked with removing them.
Maria Pokrovskaya took this photo at the top of “Bear’s Stream” quarry in Norilsk in the north of Russia. The quarry dates back to 1945 and is still used to mine copper and nickel ore – the process which largely shaped the industry and the landscape of the area. “This photo was taken in December, during the polar night, when it’s only light for a couple of hours. At the top, the wind is always strong so it’s very challenging to hold the camera and focus”.
This photograph of the Northern city of Vorkuta and its eponymous river was taken by Roman Demyanenko. Born and raised in Vorkuta, Demyanenko later relocated to Voronezh but documented his native city during two trips in 2018 and 2019 – its northern nature, the traces of the harsh history of coal-mining and prison camps, its crumbling architecture, and its inhabitants. “I tried to be true to the documentary genre and remain neutral. But in the end, I think it was my connection with the place, and the stories of my ancestors, that helped me finish the project,” the photographer says.
Liza Faktor took this photo at the meeting place of the Angara and Yenisey rivers in Siberia. “What was most likely a normal agricultural procedure of burning old grass to prepare the soil for new crops felt deeply disturbing,” Faktor remembers. “The landscape stores memories of traumatic events that took place in it — in this case the memory of victims of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing in the 1930s, when whole settlements were displaced and dumped on the wild and unwelcome shores of Angara and Yenisey.” The photograph is part of Surface of Siberia, a study of Siberian landscape that looks at the complex relationship between man and nature and their connections through exploration, romance, challenge, suffering, and historical memory.
Alexey Loshchilov took this photo in June 2017 from the Yacht Bridge in St Petersburg. The towering skyscraper is the Lakhta Center, which was close to completion at the time – an almost otherworldly presence in this remote and serene part of the cityscape.
This picture, taken by Maria Pokrovskaya on the road from Norilsk to Alykel Airport, captures both the austere beauty and harsh conditions of Russia’s northern landscape. “During snowstorms, a car can easily be blown off from the road, and in this case the only way to get to the airport is in a specially arranged convoy of buses.” says the photographer. “It could have been that the owner of this car was caught up by the weather.”
This winter cityscape in southeast Moscow belongs to Dmitry Lookianov’s Instant Tomorrow — a meditation on iconography and the spirituality of the future through our day-to-day surroundings. Tower blocks framed by urban wilderness are an integral part of the Russian cityscape and the imagery of the suburbs.
This image is from Natalie Maximova’s series Hyperborea — named after the advanced northern civilisation of Greek mythology. In the photographer’s work, the landscape of the Russian north becomes the ground to explore the fine line between myth and memory.
Roman Gostev took this photo in Nizhnevartovsk, Siberia. Both small towns and metropolises in the Siberian taiga exist in the shadow of giant factories, artefacts of the Soviet industrial dream that once brought millions of people in this cold and remote land.
This otherworldly, Mars-like landscape is located near Novosibirsk in Siberia; its hues and rugged texture are the result of copper mining. This photo is part of Alexander Nikolsky’s Refraction: a visual exploration of Russia’s inner periphery and the vast spaces which envelope regional cities, as well as the way that human presence impacts nature.
This photo was taken by Anton Klimov at the peak of Mamay Mountain at the southern end of the lake Baikal. Mamay is popular among local free riders, as well as skiers and snowboarders seeking wild, natural slopes. The photographer has spent several years documenting the mountain and how it has changed under human influence.
This photograph was taken by Fedor Konukhov in Moscow’s Ramenki district, from the balcony of the flat where the photographer grew up. It’s part of Konukhov’s ongoing documentation of Moscow’s cityscape and finding serenity in its eclectic urban environment.
The image was taken by Lena Tsibizova in Koshelev, a new town built on the outskirts of Samara in May 2018, just ahead of the FIFA World Cup. The new builds here were erected at breakneck speed and are stark in their monotony. These small three-storey houses are largely home to young families: those who’ve fled the nest but haven’t managed to put aside enough for a flat closer to the city centre.
Liza Faktor took this photograph passing through Dudinka, an industrial sea port on the Yenisey River serving the Norilsk area. It captures the drifting ice, “huge chunks of ice, as thick as my height, breaking and crushing into each other, floating down the stream and into the Arctic Ocean. They were of deep marine color, green and blue and pure, and excruciatingly beautiful”. The photograph is part of Surface of Siberia, study of Siberian landscape that looks at the complex relationship between the man and the nature which are connected with exploration, romance, challenge, suffering and historical memory.
This photograph of Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam in Khakassia is part of Alexander Nikolsky’s series Concrete: a look into the cultural and architectural impact of the material which defined the built environment of the Soviet era. “I was mesmerised by the vagueness of the boundary between natural and anthropogenous,” he says, “It’s not exactly clear which of the cascading hills surrounding the concrete structure are man-made.”
This photograph of the Rear-front monument in Magnitogorsk was taken by Arseniy Kotov (who also goes under @northern.friend on instagram) as part of his ongoing exploration of Russian urban environment. In the last few years, he has travelled across the country extensively to document places that usually go unnoticed: “I’ve seen more cities and regions of Russia than the average Russian would see in a lifetime. ”Light is integral to his work and helps to capture Russia’s cityscape and their grandeur, mundanity and romanticism.