Review by Douglas Stockdale •
This is a narrative about an indirect journey along the road that connects St. Petersburg to the city of Petergof, where the Russian Tsar Peter the Great built large Russian estates as his equivalence to the 18th century French estates and expansive gardens. This is also an investigation of an introspective journey, encountering the Russian landscape and its individuals, which is inclusive of only a guarded glimpse of a final destination, perhaps much as life itself.
The book design resembles a dossier, a collection of documents that is meant to provide information about a subject or person, which in this case includes a running dialog about Vasilyeva’s return to her home after spending two years in London. In essence, her introspection reveals that her perspective as to what constitutes “home” has been altered and this book documents her new observations while simultaneously investigating her “own identity”.
Home now appears to be a visual mash-up of despair; buildings in disrepair, dilapidated, boarded up and appearing lonely in a sparse winter landscape, forlorn playground equipment without any children enjoying its use, guarded portraits of individuals, abandoned vehicles, and much of this urban landscape captured in an overcast light. There are a lot of things that appear to be broken, such as the tree almost severed, hanging on precariously in the bleak winter landscape, featured below. A photograph of a group of colorful red chairs and tables situated along a water front are devoid of individuals, that these are meant for people who are strangely absent.
I sense an undercurrent of sadness looking at this book of photographs. The grayness of her urban landscape does not reveal very much joy, thus I suspect that Vasilyeva’s return home might be troubling for her. She appears to be echoing Thomas Wolfe’s famous statement that “you can’t go home again”, that while away, a person changes, sometimes in very small ways, and what someone returns to has changed as well, and now “home” does not fully resemble the memories of their past. That experience can have profound effects on an individual.
Thus, Vasilyeva is now experiencing the unvarnished reality of the places which she had previously left, perhaps seeing it in a less subjective or romantic light while being now more in the moment as to her visual experiences. As a result, she provides a straight-forward and raw portrait of the city and region surrounding St. Petersburg.
Other book by the Ekaterina Vasilyeva which has been previously featured on PhotoBook Journal is Shipwrecked.
Road to Petergof – Ekaterina Vasilyeva
Artist: Ekaterina Vasilyeva, (Екатерина Васильева) (born and residing in St. Petersburg, Russia
Self-published, Ekaterina Vasilyeva, St Petersburg, RU, copyright 2019
Text: English & Russian
Stiff cover book in folder, hand-made pamphlet stitch binding, four-color lithograph printing, printed at the Print Gallery, St. Petersburg, Russia, Edition of 90 copies.
Photobook designer: Ekaterina Vasilyeva