Lost and found: a photographer stumbles upon a forgotten world

In 2010, photographer Max Sher came across thousands of colour slides in an empty St Petersburg apartment. Along with a handful of letters and other documents, he began to piece together a story about the flat's former owners. He discovered, for example, that the slides had been shot from around the early Sixties up until the mid-Eighties by an archaeologist and her engineer husband, both now deceased. "Using what remained of personal items of everyday routine, we could ascertain their social standing but could not find out their names, thoughts, preferences," he says. "Neither could we guess whom they had loved. We could only imagine that." In a twist of fate, Moscow-based Sher found out shortly afterwards that the woman in the photos was Galina Babanskaya, an archaeology student who had studied with his father. On another occasion, a friend of Sher's recognised a woman in one of the photos as her aunt. The found images, plus several taken by Sher of the apartment, have now been published in a book, A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz, that examines the past and our memories. "These strange coincidences, as well as the amazing photos found and edited into a poetic visual sequence, conjure up an image of an infinite chaos of history," says Sher. "A history of vague memories and invisible bonds between people as opposed to the 'history' we had been taught and were used to — that of a linear 'development' or heroic 'events'. The latter is, in essence, no less fictional than this book of found pictures."

24 October 2013

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