michael c. brown – sakhalin

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Michael Christopher Brown

Sakhalin

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Photographed predominantly in the broken, rusted, skeletons of communities around Sakhalin Island, Russia, these images explore the enigmatic spirit of a place and its people, long scarred from the Soviet era and left behind in modern times.

 

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Michael Christopher Brown

 

92 Responses to “michael c. brown – sakhalin”


  • Nice. Very nice.

  • michael

    i could certainly feel the desolation and chill in the air throughout the series..
    the muskwa-kechika series on your site is beautiful and illustrates your consistent vision very well..

    good one.. best for the future
    david

  • BEAUTIFUL photography…
    again
    and again…
    dreamy..
    love the soft light..
    your use of colors
    and the layers in your photos..
    the one image that sort of jumps out to me, that seems a little out of place, is #10..
    I dunno, for me, it has a different vibe or something…
    strong body of work..
    **

  • Great series, Michael. Stunning images.

    Would love to read captions or a bit more information on some of the photographs.

    Thanks.

  • This is an excellent essay. The isolation, desolation and sense of time stretching without change into an uncertain future. Good job! I want to see more.

  • Not only has Michael created a mood of isolation, bleakness and hopelessness, but he also manages to make me care about these people. Even the animals look depressed. Speaking of which, image #6 blows me away. I have to admit to watching this slideshow with audible sighs and “wow’s” coming unbidden. But it ended too soon. I wanted more. So I went to Michael’s web site to see an expanded version. It is well worth the visit.

    In my humble opinion, Michael Christopher Brown is an emerging photographer who already shines with his own unique radiance. Thank you, David, for featuring him here. Again you have showed your discerning eye. And Michael, I am in awe of your artistic eye, compassionate heart and remarkable talent. Keep doin’ it, my friend. You are definitely one to watch.

    Patricia

  • Can’t stand it..

    “Again you have SHOWN your discerning eye.”

    Patricia

  • Absolutely beautiful work. You have a wonderful way of seeing. Divers, humorous and very sensitive. My favorites of this essay are the more latent and melodic images like #1,7 and 12. They are stunning.

    Checked out your website and you have some really lovely work.

    Aislinn

  • Magnificent essay filled with gorgeous and heart-breaking photographs…..

    Sakhalin Island is indeed a desolate but incredibly rich island, filled with historical calamity and difficult, not the least of which has to do with it’s isolation and climate. I first read about Sakhalin when reading Ryszard Kapuscinski’s magisterial Imperium and later again in Tiziano Terzani Goodnight Mister Lenin. Chekhov also wrote a book about his travels to Sakhalin, an island that has often been used as a punishment gulag, during the Tsars’ time and later during the Soviet time.

    What I love about this series is that the history of the island and the difficult that the people experience, (after the collapse of the soviet union, the ‘russians’ who populated the island (forced or not) have been basically ‘forgotten’)….and the photographs and the story itself contain all of that despondency and feverish difficulty…

    a powerful, beautifully photographed and deeply sensitive story….

    great work Michael.

    cheers
    bob

  • very, very good. Pictures that really tell us about a place and its people.

  • Michael, I have viewed your essay here and also your website. I see a consistent level of expertise combined with an evolution of talent. Thank you: to see such work in times-past one would have to buy an inordinate amount of photography magazines! Why are we still subjected to such banal publications?

    I’m truly impressed, Thank you once again,

    Mike.

  • Hey Mike,

    Long time! Hope you are doing well. I enjoyed your essay. I saw this on your site a last week sometime as I was browsing around. Nice work! A lot more dreamy than your other stuff, and I like that a lot. You certainly convey the feeling of the place very well. A very well edited sequence overall!

    All the best!

    James

  • Amazing…so textural and layered. I felt the isolation and got the whole feeling of what the place must be like. Edited very well…a concise and powerful essay with feeling, great angles, textures, and layers. And after checking out the work on Michael’s website, all I have to say is simply that he is extremely talented. Wow.

  • Michael, you have presented here an incredibly superb essay! Speechless! I love the images – nice moments, lights, mood, composition. You give a good sense of the place: it looks very desolate, but alive.
    And like Jim said above, I would love to see more. I can look at these images for hours! You steamed up my longing to go to Russia – one day.
    Michael, would you be so kind and share some of your experiences and thoughts you had, while shooting this essay?
    Image #14 looks like the picture of a native person. Is that the case? What is the situation of these people?
    Like Patricia said, I like image #6 very much, it reminds me of photographs by Gueorgui Pinkhassov which you can find in his book “Nordmeer”.
    Terrific work! A great big pleasure to see!
    Reimar

  • Don’t want to spoil the party but have to say this… while I like the images a lot I am somewhat disturbed to see how people easily make photo essay of about 20 images equivalent with the knowledge about the people and the places depicted (even if they never heard of the place before). “Pictures that really tell us about a place and its people”… Are you sure? How much do we know about Sakhalin and the life and the WORLD these people live in, just by looking at these pictures? Kapuscinski’s Imperium is few hundreds of pages book written by one of the greatest and once you read it you still can not claim that you know much about the places he covered.
    Please, it is beautiful photography, I would leave it at that. It is a trap we easily fall into as viewers. If I ever again set foot in Warrensburg, NY, and I hope I will not, my photos will show people, and even animals more depressed then they really are (even more depressed then animals in Russia, if you can imagine that), simply because my impression of Warrensburg, NY is what it is.

    There is life EVERYWHERE, even in Sakhalin, and where there is life there is as much happiness as there is sadness… well, almost. Now, it is photographer’s right to express whatever they need to express (and Michael does a great job here), I am one of those, but for a viewer to claim knowledge about the whole life/people/culture, all that shit, based on seeing a photo essay, it is a bit too much. Remains of colonialism perhaps…

    Sorry. Love the photographs though.

  • This essay blew me away. Every image is superbly graphic and eye-catching while conveying so much emotion. Definitely a downer though. I would love more information on why this place is so left behind. Is there any hope in the people?

  • Great essay, Michael. Lots of strong images (in particular 4, 5, 11, and 12) that work really well together.

    It actually reminds me a little of one my favourite photo-books – Jonas Bendiksen’s ‘Satellites’ – in its theme and style.

    As mentioned by others above, I’d also like to hear some of the background to the photos.

    All the best,

    Andrew

  • If there is one place on Earth I am not interested in it’s Russia. “for some pretty personal reasons”
    After viewing your photos, it’s next on my photographic travel itinerary…

    Very Nice!!!

  • Velibor’s opinion pretty much summarizes what I had in mind while seeing this essay… The photographs are beautiful indeed, although I couldn’t stop thinking of Jason Eskenazi’s “Wonderland” meets color.

    Best to all.

  • This is really gorgeous work Michael.

    SORRY but I haven’t been around and I don’t want to hijack this thread but its just there is a relationship here (Russia) and this bit is reposted and its for Bob Black,

    ‘BOB I have been away… and now I am just speechless… this work is so poignant to me its almost unbearable…

    I don’t need to sing its praises, because that would be simply inadequate. I have only one thing to say…

    When is the book coming out?’

  • Beautiful photos, nice colors and compositions.

    However, to me the series lacks the purpose. What did the photographer want to tell with it? It says that “these images explore the enigmatic spirit of a place and its people, long scarred from the Soviet era and left behind in modern times.” To me it just sounds like the usual blah-blah. Why Sakhalin?

    The big thing happening right now on Sakhalin is a multi-billion! oil and gas project with American participation. I guess it was the main purpose of the photographer’s visit on the island and “the enigmatic spirit of a place and its people, long scarred from the Soviet era and left behind in modern times” is a by-product? It just felt that way. Something big is missing in the presented selection.

    I find the two photos taken through a window of a commercial airline quite symbolic. The photographer “flew over” the island of Sakhalin without making any real contact with the local folks or understanding things happening on the ground, just scratching the surface. I can imagine it’s not easy because of the language barrier etc but it certainly would worth a try.

  • Beautiful series. I enjoyed the interplay between the compositions and the color palette.

    Asher

  • It seems that you can make anything look like what’s is needed. I have met a photog once who was under impression that Cuba is “dead spaces” under communist regime while presenting very lively full of life photos. That was his mistake and it is not present in this essay.

    The big disconnect I see in this project is that you can see and photograph exactly the same 20 kilometers from Moscow.

    Photos as singles are very good in my opinion but as a story they do not convince me. I see a girl dancing, and a guy drunk, kids in school, but that has nothing to do with Sakhalin nor Kamchatka. It all looks the same in rural Russia. It looked this way 100 years ago and will look this way 100 years from now.

    love and hugs …
    running :)
    haik

  • no, no no … you are not spoiling the party…
    not at all Veba… i totally agree…
    unfortunately… you speak the truth…
    or in other words… you “Tell it like it is”…
    thank you!

  • Great light…poetry everywhere. Congratulations!

  • Ludmilla…
    I’m with U too…
    Veba makes sense…
    peace y’all…

  • Haik…
    im afraid that You too also speak the truth… just like Veba or Ludmilla…
    nice looking photos though…something missing …( not telling the whole story, maybe… very western approach…)

  • Hi,
    Thanks everybody for checking out the work and really glad some of you enjoyed the imagery.
    Am about to leave for the evening but will quickly respond to some of the comments and definitely later as well, if there are more. Really appreciate the inquiries and interest…
    I have made two trips to Sakhalin and those trips have been my sole experience in Russia. The first time I went was to fulfill an assignment in 2007 about the oil and gas operations and the effects on the local population. The second trip was made last year to visit friends made during the initial trip and to explore the northern, more remote regions.
    Reimar, #14 is a photograph of a Nivkh man on a train heading to the central area of Sakhalin. My translator and I spent time with this man and I was able to follow him around the hallways a bit. Later we met with him and stayed with others in one of the Nivkh villages.
    Velibor, couldn’t agree more: ‘it is….photography, I would leave it at that.’
    Matt, the short answer is yes, definitely. As Haik points out, ‘it all looks the same in rural Russia.’ In fact, everywhere, there are always some people ‘left behind’ in any of the myriad forms of Progress. This is not a new story. The common folk on Sakhalin have seen an increase in rent and living expenses in general due to the exploding oil/gas operations. The local people who have had the opportunity to partake in the operations since the 90’s have done well and have, for the most part, improved their living conditions. For those unqualified, without the skills, contacts, etc., who have not reaped the benefits, life has become more difficult. Traditional industries such as fishing, timber, coal, etc., are all still there but they, for the most part, are not as lucrative as in the past especially considering the rising cost of living.
    Yuri, in some ways I totally agree these pictures just ‘scratch the surface.’ But in sequencing these images for BURN I was not trying to make some grand statement. I chose these specific images and sequence in an attempt to comment on the ‘spirit of the age,’ so to speak. For me the pictures simply explore the mood I experienced during two rather short visits to the island. Please do not assume I made no real contact with locals and had no understanding of what was happening there. I stayed with local people, made friends and tried as best I could to understand what is happening there with the time I had.
    Thanks everybody and will respond more later to any more comments/etc.
    Best,
    Mike

  • Russia is an endless source of inspiration. Winterreise by Luc Delahaye, Zona by Carl Dekeyzer, the Little People of Siberia by Claudine Doury (http://www.agencevu.com/photographers/photographer.php?id=31) come to mind. This body of work comes very very close. The dog staring through the window is great.

    The slideshow stops at nr 17n though…

  • the first shot is absolutely incredible …

  • my dear friend MCB – you know i love this work. what else can i say that has not already been said. every image is strong, beautiful, mysterious, lonely, etc. excellent edit. GREAT work Mike!! see you saturday night… xo gina

  • Very, very good set of images. Impressive together, yet stand-alone quality.

    Nothing else to say.

  • The photo number 2 by the way is probably the most beautiful photo
    i have ever seen….

  • simple-elegant-poetic

  • Good grief, I’m stunned and blown away. Awesome stuff.

    I love your composition and sense of graphics, and the fact that you have placed your center of interest almost dead center in every photo. ( a big compositonal no-no for adherants of classic composition, hell, some cameras will even give you a grid in the viewfinder so you can always mindlessly plunk your center of interest according to the “rule” of thirds.)

    Anyway, I love the stuff. Must go check out your website.

    Gordon L

  • Its maybe the most visually beautiful essay on Burn yet. Ive seen it now 3 times and the colors blow me away. So do the compositions. Im wondering why #4 wasnt an opener..seems like that would be the natural place for it, it seems a bit out of place between 2 portraits. I like how some of the photos flow. #5, #6 and 7 work nicely together. #12 and 20 are maybe my favorite singles.

    I wish it was longer. I think your edit gives a nice overview of the work but I wish there was more for me to see.

  • mike!!! so glad you got this on here man! this is awesome work. i remember seeing this a little bit ago. nice nice stuff. hope you have been keeping well man. love seeing this on here.

  • lovely essay, and all other essays introduced on your site, I am very admiring your work…

    all the best, audrey

  • Michael Christopher Brown You make very good pictures. The work on your web site is very well seen. A lot[ in fact most] of the single images are stunning. The same with this essay, sort of. I dont think all the imagery is as strong, but there are some superb images here. Like a couple of others I cant quite follow the narrative though. Now I may well be projecting my own stuff here as I cant shoot narrative essay for shit, ending up always with a bag full of goodies that just wont string together. Its just a feeling i get when looking at your work; great images, seperated from a whole by their very intensity and stand alone power.
    John

  • Terzani and Kapuscinski… two great authors and two journalists that stretched the meaning of journalism to a deeper level.
    ciao Bob!

  • Great stuff for the most part.
    I have not read the intro yet, just looked at the pictures.
    I got a vague idea where this place might be anyway.
    I just looked at the intro now and there is no really much to read…better.
    For what it’s worth, I adore 6,7 and 12.

  • Micheal – from somebody who has gone on a similar journey myself, your photography brings back a flood of memories. The mood and emotions represented in your edit here could easily describe my own during much of my time shooting in Siberia and I am still very much conflicted about what I hoped to capture there.

    I would like to say something about the comments made by Yuri and others expressing the notion that you were only “scratching the surface” of the place, that these images were simply a “by-product” of going there for the next “big thing”. Or as Velibor alludes to – that you simply showed the mood you wished to project: I am sure that Micheal was fully aware of these pitfalls while shooting, (I know I was) and yet his images succeed by most accounts here – probably more so than the images taken for the oil story that took him there. I guess I am saying that I applaud you for simply following your eye and gut.

    I have on several occasions considered my trip to Siberia a complete failure because I tried too hard to avoid the above mentioned – I went in summer to show that Siberia actually isn’t always a vast wasteland of snow and ice. I wanted to show the diversity of the population there. How western culture was creeping in, the newfound wealth from natural resource extraction, the problems associated with permafrost and global warming, show the daily life of it’s people – anything but to avoid what I thought were cliched images of somber house-bound descendants of the Gulag.

    Needless to say, I was wildly naive about the difficulties in shooting in the region (the language barrier being only one of them for me) and my ability to tackle ALL of these ideas in a single essay, much less a single visit. But, I tried so hard to avoid the obvious visions conjured up when one thinks of “Siberia” I feel I no longer followed my eye or my gut. I feel my images simply fall flat – lack the magic spirit of the place.

    Making images that sum up the zeitgeist of a region is about as challenging a task as I can think of in photography – but as the term itself implies, it is only an apparition – an impression, hint, or suggestion of a greater whole – the ghost of truth.

    Now despite all of this, it is hard to find a greater urge within me than that to return as soon as I can – it is an amazing, magical place and I see and feel that in your images. They inspire me to return and give it another go…

    Best,

    Joel

  • Well-said Joel, very thoughtful.

  • I have been twice in Siberia (around Chelyabinsk) on business trips (not related to photography): first time was deep November and landscape and people perfectly matched my idea/prejudice of former (former? damn, I went with the typical approach of someone grown during Cold war era, I must say) Sovietic Siberia: everything frozen, including people’s hopes. Two years later I went back at the beginning of autumn and I was surprised that all the activities I saw around were not matching with what I rememebered from my first trip. It worths noting that things are still quickly changing in Russia, but my eyes changed as well and at the end of my second trip some of my stereotypes about the region were definetely broken. So, Joel, I encourage you to return there and keep a “loose” stare… btw, Alaska Parks Highway seems a way more lonely and gloom place than my former Siberia on your website ;)

    I really like Michael’s essay (photo #2 is absolutely great, #8 is Koudelka revisited… more documentary pictures, like #15, could be skipped imo): I think it conveys in a magical way the author’s feelings in Sakhalin, but in this case Sakhalin is just a backdrop and I’m fine with that. This is another facet of the autorship issue, I guess.

  • Veba, Panos, Haik and Ludmilla:

    at the sake of defending ignorance, let me offer a quick conter to your suggestions about my (or others) implied knowledge of Sakhalin. In my post, I said i was familiar with the island and it’s history (including the difficulties that the indigenous population have had, not only with the Russians after colonization but long prior, with the chinese and the japanese) including it’s recent struggle with the tension between having been economically and socially abandoned by Moscow et al and it’s recent emmergence with regard to the oil and gas: a tune that has been playing out over the entirety of Siberia and the former Soviet republics by the way. Anyway, having a knowledge of a particular place’s history and wedged by this into a context of a photographic story, indeed DOES NOT mean I know anything about the people or what it means to live in a place and within a given history. I never once suggested such knowledge. Veba, i’d assumed you’d known me much better than that, and in fact, this has been a point of conversation between us in the past, our distrust of photographic knowledge, or nation-flyers possed as sociologists. In fact, photographic CANNOT speak truthfully of a people or a specific experience, that can only come from a personalized experience of having been, for some period of time, a part of a place or community. Absolutely. However, this does not lessen the power of Michaels essay, which i found more EVOCATIVE rather than insightful, evocative of the wintery time he spent there and the isolation he felt or seemed to feel or observed. Call it; winter’s song. If my language or the language of others suggests a tie to the ‘way of life’ for people who live in Sakhalin, then this is unfortunate and surely was not my intention, but rather that this particular essay, wonderfully observed and beautifully poetic, illustrates a particular power in photography. It also, it can be contented, points to other problems in photography: our easy seduction of fact for imagery. that’s obvious, but I have not SEEN or READ anywhere in Michael’s essay where he suggests that this essay the entire way of life or represents the nature of the life there. again, it’s rather an evocation,….the truth is that all of our pics can be used as that, and therein lies that problem for both the reader (if they think knowledge comes in the way of a photograph) or the photographer (if they think that just visiting and photographing a place teaches)…..but I’ve seen work, by the way, by russian photographers (some of whom are friends) that viewed from the same perspective fall to the same criticism….i think, totally valid, your questions and concerns have less to do with the essay than assumptions of the viewers…..and by the way, using the same logic, it’s easy to pick holes in Imperium as way….what are we to do veba?…that’s a more fundamental question…and I think, one that banishes all photographic viewing experience….does it not?….

    and happy to read about Wonderland…a great book by a great guy….

    running
    bob

  • Ludmilla: :))

    im happy you brought up my friend’s book…which is one of the finest books published last year….though i dont agree in total with what Veba has suggested, keep in mind that Jason spent 10 years living and traveling throughout the former soviet union….and his book spans more than just one place….the interesting question is this: what is it that suggests, through photography, the ‘insight’ in to a place, a culture, a ‘people’…is it time or is it the connection or is it the images themselves….jason had both on his side, time and a remarkable eye…and he is an incredible listener too….but, it’s a difficult question, and one that i think cant be answered by a single essay ;)))…ponimaete? :))…spasibo bolshoi…bob

  • First essay I really love in burn. Very nice stuff.

  • Veba and others :))

    PS…i think Veba, ludmilla, haik and others point/question is a very important one and one that each of us need to ask, especially for those who photograph places, people, of which they are not a part, so i hope i didnt sound dismissive of your concerns and comments (internet writing, where’s the voice ;) ), only that i have no no knowledge of Sakhalin but the minimal things i learned by reading and it’s funny, Chekhov’s longest book (as he was sent there to report on the island, the people who live there) was devoted to that mysterious and torn island, probably didnt even get at the stories inside the lives there…that’s a critical thing: we never ever, with words or pictures, get at the depths of experience of what is the lived life in any place…so yea, i dont ‘know’ more after watching the essay (even the extended version) or reading the books, but maybe, just maybe, the value of work allots us to WANT to know more (illusion?)…that’s the entire conundrum of ‘reporting’ of experience…i just dont think we should be too quick to dismiss the effect work has on bridging our lives to others….mabye a beginning of things rather than a absolution of knowing…hope my words ddidnt sound aggressive (still sleepy)…hugs, bob

  • was there ever a song that truly educated us? moved us ‘yes’, but allowed us to say we ‘know’ more important facts now, know them now so much more than before we experienced the song?

    even if the lyrics were filled with words that described real things? even if the song was ‘we didn’t start the fire’; do we ever feel educated?

    do songwriters ever set out on this fact-based enlightenment intention? why don’t song writers give us an artist statement or song objective before we hear it?

    it seems long ago that song writers came to grips with the communication medium they chose, they figured out its strengths and its weaknesses. creators of photographic messages are long over due to be woken by this same reality.

    a photograph is simply never going to offer the degree of education that is delivered by other forms of media and will never supplant a real-life experience. to hold the medium to that level of regard is just absurd and truly unfair to a beautiful effective messaging device that is a still photograph.

    the sooner the creators of photographic songs come to grips with this, the sooner their audience can stop getting snagged by the fish hooks of ‘success’ or ‘failure’, fishhooks set entirely because the creators dangled bait by passing the essay off as an education, even if that bait was as benign as:

    “broken, rusted, skeletons of communities around Sakhalin Island, Russia, these images explore the enigmatic spirit of a place and its people, long scarred from the Soviet era and left behind in modern times”

    Michael’s essay is the most beautiful essay i’ve experienced here on Burn. much like a moving song, it makes me wonder not only about this place, it also makes me wonder about my own space in this world, it make me wonder this by pure, stark, contrast; it also makes me wonder about my own options and my own activities based on the images i experienced through this essay.

    this wonder has already kicked-off a deeper exploration of this place for me via google and a deeper appreciation of my own space as i gaze out the window right now. i don’t really know if this was the desired result Michael had for this essay, but i think to be moved to action and personal reflection on any level establishes an effort as a work of art and i feel richer for experiencing it.

    But when will we stop looking for educations in photographic essays? Has there been an educational essay on Burn yet?

  • Mike, thank you for answering and offering an insight in your work.
    I like to stress what Joe, Bob and Joel have just pointed out. This essay offers a taste. A taste of what Sachalin might be like.
    Even with time, good will and many more images so much has to be left out. We are a little doomed here. We can only sratch the surface. But we can try and scratch it real good! And I feel Mike did!
    Reimar

  • Sense of a place, very nicely done!

  • This is the mutt’s nuts.

  • Bob,

    I read about Jason’s story and the making off the book. Which I think is a precious piece of work (and I am glad I bought a copy before its price inflation), therefore I do acknowledge that he had time… Sometimes comparisons can be “badly” interpreted… And first impressions and thoughts are quite spontaneous, no? Whether you voice them or not, in my case I couldn’t help myself, maybe it was the subject itself… Russia; however I do like Mr. Brown’s photographs though… As I said before, they are beautiful. Thanks for taking the time to stress the part which I left behind when my comment was made.
    Spasibo!

  • Veba, I agree. There is life everywhere and just being at such a remote place does not automatically mean that series has to be interesting. I see some very beautiful photographs in his essay, but i have a feeling it hardly scratches the surface. It looks to me like a one time trip photo report – result of several days (again it might not be so, but it look like it) of shooting – whatever was around. Can hardly call this exploration of enigmatic spirit, but may be that just me.

  • This is what I love about Burn. Here we have an essay that everyone seems to agree contains excellent photographs and we still find points upon which to disagree, points that trigger a discussion of the broader issues confronting photography. Fantastic!

    In terms of whether or not photographs have the capacity and/or obligation to educate their viewers, I’m reminded of the discussion that swirled around Anton’s “Sugar,” the first-ever essay published on Burn. Ben, for one, wrote in part,

    “Many of the photographs have a simple innocence to them that is alluring; however I found the repetition frustrating, and crucially (for me anyway) i didn’t feel like I learnt a single thing about diabetes from the images…”

    And now some are asking if we have been misled by Mike’s introduction into expecting something he didn’t deliver, and that is a body of work that educates us in depth about the place and people of Sakhalin. Others posit that 1) Mike did not make such a promise, and 2) such in-depth education is not the responsibility nor province of photography.

    I take a both/and approach to the question.

    Have I ever been educated by a photograph? Yes. One that comes immediately to mind is Eddie Adams’ “Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla.” What I learned from that photo taken at the same time that my brother-in-law was fighting in that far-off land, was the utter callousness of war. There was something about the body language of General Nguyeyen Ngoc Loan that said killing was no more important to him than lighting up a cigarette. It shocked me into seeing what my brother-in-law was part of.

    But do I EXPECT photographs to educate me? No. If I did, would I have dared take on the topic I chose for my own photo essay? Does anyone learn more about multiple sclerosis by seeing that essay? I think not. Did I expect to learn all about Sakhalin by seeing Mike’s essay or about Korea’s “love hotels” by seeing Grace Kim’s essay? No. In both cases, I expected to see/feel the spirit of a place and its present or absent people as evoked through the medium of photography. In both cases, my expectations were more than satisfied.

    Photography is no more than a reflection of reality as seen through the eyes of the photographer. The intent of each photographer as she/he pushes the shutter release button will color what the viewers see, think and feel about the image. But the viewer’s own life experience, world view and capacity to feel/think will also influence how they see the image. It’s just as dangerous to generalize about the impact of any one photograph or essay as it is to generalize about any one individual or place. But the fact that we do it anyway, certainly keeps things hopping here on Burn!

    Patricia

  • felt like a mix between simon roberts “motherland” and bendiksen’s “sattelites”.

    enjoyable.

    felt like some of the shots of kids were a bit whimsical.

    yeah. good work.

  • Joe. it all depends on how you classify ‘education’.
    Im pretty sure a lot of people have learned a lot of things here already.
    How they see vs how others see.
    Subtelty as a form of expression, and how it might be read.
    The art vs documentary approach debate.
    The art of essay editing.
    ….and the importance of personal visions and dream chasing.
    each of these and quite a few more have been well explored in the work presented and the many varied responses to them. that IS education if we care to utilise it.

    But no, an essay ,on homelessness say, will not teach us how to end homelessness, but it MIGHT teach us how to understand OUR part in it.
    Good to see you back
    john

  • Really excellent.
    Many have asked for more photos to be included. I think it’s the perfect length for a web slideshow like this. I’d want more images in a book or exhibition – things that I could browse more at leisure but in this setting i found it concise and held my attention (the span of which is shortened when applied to a computer screen).

  • Sense of place and spirit is beautifully conveyed…

  • Dan…said.
    Many have asked for more photos to be included…
    Dan… its the same ones that asked from the longer essays to have
    photos excluded…
    Laughing….:))))))))))))))))))))))))))…
    For some, its either TOO LONG , or TOO SHORT…..
    but never enough…
    pessimists…
    ( laughing )

  • Hey Michael,
    We met at the Kibbutz once. This is one of my favorite essays on Burn now – I like the delicate compositions, etc, etc. But what I really like is that I’m not seeing desperation in such a desolate place (am I supposed to?) I see health and education, sustenance, sexuality, history, technology, and families. The only thing I really see as depressing is the cold, with all things considered makes Michigan one of the most depressing places on earth!

    I think you painted a very “as is” picture. Thank you for not patronizing them – I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • I just looked at the series on your site – that person on the slab of ice is really freaking me out!

  • That was a beautiful essay. The image of the dog through the window, atop the snow bank, took my breath away. Lovely.

  • Hey Joe,
    as always, you made me think…
    :)))))))))))))))))))))

  • Bob…
    same as Joe, you made me think & rethink and think again…
    thank you guys…
    still thinking…
    hmmm

  • David McG..;-)
    i might agree with you too here..
    although usually the opposite is the given,
    coz you prefer the clean cut natgeo look and…
    i’m still thinking about it.. hmmm
    :)))))))))))))
    peace y’all…

  • who says I like the clean? well, maybe. actually I’m a big fan of the ordinary.

  • Ordinary???
    hey… i like it too!!!
    ;-)

  • mike.. you are one of the few, at least for me, whose consistently solid work i thoroughly respect and admire and i feel compelled to push on when i see your work.. call it inspiration, motivation, whatever… great stuff amigo.. i’m always looking forward to more from you. best, lance

  • Michael, stunning work – both here and on your website. I see you’ve been classified by several sources as ’emerging’ — with your body of work so far as a preview, I can’t wait to see what you’ll do when you’re all the way out!

  • Im pretty sure a lot of people have learned a lot of things here already

    you couldn’t be more correct. this place leaves me deeply satisfied in this respect. cheers for the warm words John.

  • Gordon and Panos, cheers ;-)

  • Excellent. Feels like the right number of photographs for a web essay.

  • Yes, Abele; I thought of Koudelka too! Or maybe Erwitt?

  • Hello Mickael,

    I really like your essay. I’ve just went to your website and I admire your work.

    Julien (from france).

  • dear bob… never ever i was addressing you in my comment, I hope you would know me as much. we discussed this same issue in my living room, I know where you stand, nothing to argue about it with you… it never crossed my mind that you assume you got all the knowledge of the place by reading Imperium. i used you reference to Imperium to say that even after reading such a great reporting book one can not assume all the knowledge, bla, bla (just as you don’t)… what got me is the comment by buzz luzz biteyear liteyear and partialy (and supprisingly) Patricia’s about even animals looking depressed… all I wanted to do is to bring a point to try to prevent many others coming in and labeling whole communities with the mood they get from looking at a photo essay… i guess, as it has been proven million times so far, the points do not come accross on online forums… being my secong language i probably can’t express myself well either.
    also, i never questioned the photographers intentions in my comment. i believe it is clear i am not judging him and i never assumed he wanted to educate us. in fact, i found nothing depressing in this essay, it is beautiful photography about life in a certain place as seen by the photographer, just like we all do every time we photograph… man, my pictures of montreal sometimes look like it is the ugliest place while in fact it is the most beautiful city…
    again, sorry for upsetting you, never ever thought that would happen.. oh, i can’t believe we are discussing this here… cheers, veba.

  • interesting. didn’t know that sakhalin and life in there looks like this, this good. thought that its something else. anyway i think its great that life is at least beautiful in there. beautiful colors, crisp snow, compositions and great, wild dogs. and i think its also really cheap in there. great advertisement for sakhalin, the place full of enigma and secrets or whatever in hell you wrote. have to think about it as my next home. any good beaches, bungalows there during the summer that you could recommend?

  • in my opinion, we’re looking at the work of a photographer who will be heard from for a long time. you’ll see his work in the world’s top publication… i belive he’s got the chops to succeed at the highest levels — go through his website — can you imagine the body of work he’ll have after another 10 or 20 years? MCB — you are a true talent !

    dh

  • MICHAEL,

    You have done a very fine essay and I actually even prefered the longer version of the essay that you have on your website. I maybe would have kept images 21, 27, 31 and 37 and even possibly 24 (all on your website esit) into your final edit…. In any case, nicely done. It reminded be a bit of a book that I recently purchased “Satellites” from Jonas Bendiksen that I love. Not exactly the same location but some similar inspiration and mood. I thionk that Jonas has some even more impactful photographs but you are right up there….

    Cheers,

    Eric

  • Again, thanks for the comments and an interesting discussion….Will respond to several and sorry if I miss some people:
    Joel, I like these words: ‘…the ghost of truth.’ I agree, it is important to follow the response/curiosity of your particular your eye/gut, wherever they lead you. This is something that inspires me about photography – that if we try and do this we can, at least attempt to, communicate, express what we feel in a given experience. I think of the poet Fernando Pessoa and how ‘…what we see is not made up of what we are seeing but rather from what we are.’
    Bob, really enjoy the analysis….Yes, when Chekhov went (and my flying from NY to Moscow then across Russia on an uncomfortable Aeroflot flight was nothing compared to his lengthy journey just getting to/from there, which I believe included a rough ride on a coach and buggy…) he was given, officially, total access to wander wherever….He spent time in people’s homes, secretly interviewing them (as in-depth interviews were unofficial) and learning the stories of their past lives….But however detailed the stories were, Chekhov just began to discover the ‘depths of (their) experience’…..and he was there working everyday all day for four months!
    Joe, love the analysis of what I believe was Bob’s initial suggestion of a ‘winter’s song.’ There are definitely strengths and weaknesses and photographs often are most thought-provoking on an emotional level….And when we feel something, as photographers, then maybe others, viewers, will as well. ‘The taste,’ right Reimar?!
    And David, of course another important point: ‘…I’m not seeing desperation….am I supposed to?’ I cannot speak in general but in this particular case I think you should see/feel what YOU see/feel. And BTW we had tons of fun jumping from iceberg to iceberg on our way home that day, after climbing some waterfalls along the coast!

  • Mike :)))

    you are one brilliant magician and it’s was such such a pleasure to see this essay (i’d seen some of your other work in NG)…particularly since Russia holds such a personal place in my familiy’s life…and just last summer i discovered Chekhov’s book after reading Good Night Mister Lenin….

    though you and i are totally different photographers, i must tell you after watching your essay i said to myself “fuck, fuck, that’s IT!” :)))))….and you know i had a dream 2 nights about the photo (on your website) of the dog looking into the window…..now, to get into my head dream-space means you are doing something right! ;))))….

    wicked beauty :))

    cheers
    bob

  • ludmilla :)))

    no worries…i gotta tease jason about the inflation ;)))…and yes, he’s been to this site too :))…totally agree, 1st impressions are like breath, the stuff of who we are, …and i was trilled to see u mention Wonderland…what a pleasure to know it’s read everywhere :))))…cheers, bob

  • veba :))

    no worries V…that’s why i wrote that 2nd PS, cause the ‘tone’ of my response sounded much much harsher or angry or whatever than what i was feeling…i dont get upset that often and certaintly wouldnt be upset with you, i mean if there’s one photographer and friend i can talk late into the night about the duplicity of photography or the bullshit of ‘knowing’ it’s you :))……maybe it’s cool we dont live in montreal, othewise what work would we get done ;)))…..totally totally understand…and your question and concern as ludmilla’s and haiks and panos and my friend Kirill’s above are important…and necessary…so, i was just offering another way to see around this dilemma, call it Lazarus’ response ;)))….and since when the hell did you EVER make a city ugly with your pics???…..ok, maybe Chicago ;)))…hugs…love from both of us to u….summer approaches, soon chats in person… :))))))

    your
    b

  • p.s. this cover image is just sublime…and one of the few few times i’ve been totally jealous of another photographer…that’s embryonic beauty, the star-child in 2001, the heart of the daguerretype, the rosetta stone, the icon of the story and all that…god damned ;))))))….b

  • Michael,

    Beautiful work! It reminds me of the work of one of my all time favorite photographers: Winterreise by Luc Delahaye. I don’t why, but images from Russia really grab my attention. I do have a Russian grandma, perhaps its that?

    Gotta go know, might write more later after I’ve looked at your site.

    Jason.

  • Fine work; I love #2 & #12. DR

  • absolutely stunning. It made me want to see more.

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