[slidepress gallery=’marinablack-versts’]

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Marina Black


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“Anyone parted from his land will weep seven years.

Whoever is parted from his tribe will weep until he dies.”

Central Asian Proverb

I came to Canada at the age of 28, not knowing a word of English. I never felt comfortable expressing myself in this language. However, photography has given me a voice. The camera has allowed me to “listen to” and re-examine, in their photographic retelling, my Russian memories, to sail back into the world that had seemed lost to me while I struggled with my new life and new identity in Canada.

My photographs have never lost their sense of ‘Russian-ness’, however, new experiences, encounters with people in Canada have profoundly affected my photographic work,  I began concentrating on the topics of identity and memory,  human suffering  in their relationship to land, as well as the understanding of mortality and psychological limitations. It made me reconsider my relationship to Russia. Increasingly, I experience more and more empathy to its people and their tormented moments of history. I have the sense that these moments made Russian people acutely aware of time passing, of time as a substance, when one could only be anxious, or terrified. It also made me think of the time outside of these events, molded by extraordinary Russian novelists, poets, composers.

These moments of history are in my subliminal presence when I am photographing or putting my pictures together. More and more do I want to photograph outside of time, independent of the present and my environment that I mistook for a home,  and reflect  the atmosphere of the past on peoples faces and places.  When I return to Russia to visit, I often feel overwhelmed. Everywhere I look, I find the traces of its distressed history, its its rich but frantic culture. It is astonishing to find Russia in the predicament from making history to be caught in it.    I become particularly aware of time. My consciousness is disturbed, ghostly reflecting the memory of those who have lived there before. I follow my own footsteps, haunt my former life akin to people who have been in a car accident and lost all their memory and now they are returned to a life they no longer recognize as their own. The process of my photography is one of layering the pictures like palimsets, cutting up the cityscapes and dusting them off as in archeology, as if juxtaposing past and present and embracing both.

The Versts (Версты) project is a direct development from my previous work and exploration of themes of migration, the fragile nature of memory and identity and how it aids in the construction of a subjective personal history in relation to physical traces and photography. I would like to produce a body of work akin to an excavation site, the photographs, which would connect me to the time when I felt a affiliation to place I used to call “home” and strong sense of identity, broken with immigration. I plan to photograph throughout Russia in order to make a pictorial record of things that once constituted my identity, Russian or Soviet, personal, historical, cultural, environmental. I hope to capture the expression of it on the experiential and spiritual level, rather than the documentation of life in Russia at this particular moment.

–Marina Black, 2009

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Marina Black


Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

50 thoughts on “marina black – versts”

  1. Dear Marina

    I like the way you presented your essay. Fragments. Like the ‘blips’ that emerge in our minds as we are remembering. The tactile sense aroused by the way you cut things…edgy…pun intended…it works for me and i connected to it because of the content of the photographs. I can feel your exploration. thank you. anne

  2. This is rich, sumptous, evocative and gracious work, that fleshes out a life and makes me wonder.

    I can feel Marina nearby, she is present and warm.

    This is what I have waited to see on Burn, I am glad we are past the ’emerging’ ones.

    It was so taxing.

    This essay is formed and clear, I can hear and see Marina’s voice, there is no longer any confusion.

    Congratulations Marina, its fabulous work and even though I pledged I would not write a single word more, this was worth me coming back to look…


  3. Marina…I have been waiting to see and wow my eyes are wide open. :)))

    Mr. Powers, from the visual content of your site you are in your infancy of your visual exploration…I also noticed that you have not made one positive, constructive comment about the work here at Burn…it is obvious that the work here on Burn is challenging your notion of photography in ways that makes you uncomfortable and your knee-jerk reaction is to tear other down…I challenge you to be constructive if you choose to comment, but most of all pick up your camera and shoot more.


  4. fragments of memory…
    pieced back together..
    can’t wait to see what you get this summer…
    it seems this is the beginning
    of a story,
    YOUR story….
    a visual diary…
    thanks for the
    to share…
    I think the shot of your hand with stamp is very powerful!!
    did you cut the negs and then put them in a 4×5 carrier to print??

  5. gotta agree with Jim – looks like a vanity project. Either edit for mass consumption or make a scrap book. too much trickery (vignette, cut up negatives) making up for boring shots and too little holding the series together.

  6. Superb!! Emotive & soulful. A great sound – hue/tone. I really like these ‘shards’…the sway between singular frame and broken pieces. Also, the ‘no.8 portrait’ is really piercing. Keep returning to it.
    a fantastic expression of memory, flash-back, isolation, fragmentation, dislocation, recollection & re-connection. Congratulations!!!! Keep flying!!! Peace and colours!!

  7. i thought i learned everything i needed to know about Russia from Dr. Zhivago :-)

    i’m finding this method of visual messaging more and more refreshing. It is interesting information conveyed from an implicated story-teller. I feel introduced to ‘something’ and it being so personal: ‘someone’. Who doesn’t want to meet someone new and interesting? As far as the presentation methods: yep, they are different and a bit daring, but not naff; show me someone that thinks they are over the top and i’ll show you someone that spends too much time in the missionary position.

    for now on, i don’t think I’d like my emotional meals served up any other way! i want the author to be implicated! I want it to feel this authentic. i want to like the author as much as I like the mood.

    Marina, i’d really be interested in what your approaches were with regards to making universally coherent visual information from something with such abstract origins. i understand your motives, i guess i would just like to understand the ways you went about making the imagery happen in such a cohesive way from such disparate pieces, the more detail about the actual way you worked the better.

  8. I agree with Jim and Dan. Not intellectual enough.Artsy. Not PJ photography.Good try and I would suggest Agfa Rodinol for more black and white tones.Try harder.

  9. Харш, красиво, замечательно, как и Достоевский. И не платят внимание на людей, кто говорит, что нет.

  10. congratulations for being published on Burn Marina.

    This kind of art is obviously a very personal undertaking. What I take away from this is a very dis-quieting feeling. Confusion, dis-orientation, and very dream-like. I’ve not made up my mind wether I “like” it or not, but then I don’t think I’m necessarily intended to like it.

    It has evoked an emotional reaction in me, which means that at least it is succesful on that level. Clearly no-one but yourself could understand the visual references.

    You have deliberatly chosen to work in what I think of as an “anti-photograph” manner. That is, a manner of working which ignores what we conventionally expect a photograph to be. I’m afraid I have a difficult time with this sort of work. I feel strongly that photographs need to be well crafted. These photographs clearly challenge that notion.

    Good luck with your project

  11. Marina,

    This is fascinating and haunting work. It doesn’t all make sense to me, but that’s beside the point.

    The cut-up idea is brave – sometimes I wish I could take a pair of scissors to my negatives! Have you been reading William Burroughs? :-)

    I assume that the 4 and 7 are your parents? Number 9 is great! So is 14!

    I feel a sadness oozing out of this work and it speaks to me.

    There are a few images there which in my opinion weaken the work a little bit, but at the same time I believe that you have to make an edit of photographs and throw it out into the world and accept that not everybody will like it. As long as you’re happy with it, that’s the main thing.

    I hope to one day see a little black book with Versts written on the cover.

    Keep working!


  12. Marina, thank you very much for this… it brightened up my day.

    So much quality without exposure and so much exposure without quality nowadays… This gives me hope and strength to keep working.

    Keep up!


  13. Marina-

    It takes courage to do a self-portrait project like this. I admire and like what you are trying to do, and I appreciate the dreamlike and haunted quality about the work. I like the fragmented and cut-up pieces of contact sheets…it’s the perfect way to illustrate the fragility of memory and how you are literally trying to piece this past back together. Very personal…thank you for sharing.

  14. panos skoulidas

    i can watch this 100 times……
    i relate…….%100
    bravo Marina!

  15. This would work better if it was supported with captions. Not too sure about the funky vignetting,
    but I like like it- I think

  16. “I hope to one day see a little black book with Versts written on the cover.” – justin

    Yes! A little “Family BLack Book!”

    I can’t wait…

  17. I have one of these prints on my wall; I see it every day even when I don’t look at it.
    Love to see work of this ‘nature’ (wow, am I struggling with words today… well, everyday) here on Burn, just as I like to see any other kind of photography work actually.

    Was it Chris Anderson, from Magnum, that said how ’emotions and feelings are the only things in photography that matters’ or something along those lines (one of those quotes on Magnum site)… More I look at different work more I find it true for my own perception…

    However, just wanted to say Hi to Marina and family Black and congratulate on the publication.
    Best, Veba

  18. this is without a doubt one of my most favorite burn essays.
    i loved the feeling of time.
    i love your brave techniques.
    it drew me in.
    wonderful work…congratulations!

  19. !!!!! :”))))))

    My city’s vastness is submerged in night.
    Away from sleeping buildings, I take flight.
    The people that I see think: daughter, wife,-
    But I remembered one thing only: night.

    A mild, July wind shows me where to go.
    In someone’s house, music’s playing – slow.
    Through thin walls of my ribs, – I know –
    This wind, up until dawn, will blow.

    There’s a lit up window and a poplar tree,
    A flower in my hand, a church-bell’s plea,
    This path I take in no one’s footsteps – free,
    And this lone shadow, – there is no me.

    Golden threads of city lights’ rays.
    And in my mouth, – this bitter leaf’s taste.
    My friends, release me from the day’s maze.
    You’re merely dreaming all of this, dazed.

    В огромном городе моем – ночь.
    Из дома сонного иду – прочь
    И люди думают: жена, дочь,-
    А я запомнила одно: ночь.

    Июльский ветер мне метет – путь,
    И где-то музыка в окне – чуть.
    Ах, нынче ветру до зари – дуть
    Сквозь стенки тонкие груди – в грудь.

    Есть черный тополь, и в окне – свет,
    И звон на башне, и в руке – цвет,
    И шаг вот этот – никому – вслед,
    И тень вот эта, а меня – нет.

    Огни – как нити золотых бус,
    Ночного листика во рту – вкус.
    Освободите от дневных уз,
    Друзья, поймите, что я вам – снюсь.

    –Marina Tsvetaeva

    Kенгурушkа Моя ! :)))))))))))

    first, let me congratulate you on this beautiful essay and I am so happy that it has been published here and that people have an opportunity to have a small glimpse of this project: just wait until the full extend and spectrum of the world is unveiled….as a photographer (and not only as a partner), I have always loved this project and am so so proud of you and your vision. As a photographer, I admire and value so much your courage and your conviction to speak about that which has defined and haunted you without concern or consideration of how others shall judge both you and the work. I am crazy about your negative cut-ups and believe that these parts, as with the disappearing-circle faces (not shown in this essay) are so substantial and so fundamentally elemental aspects of both this project and photography that I hope that more photographers will see the power and the substance for them, as both imagery and as metaphor.

    It is difficult, as you know, to ‘argue’ for the potency of an idea and it’s formation and it’s fulfillment and yet both the images and the technique are what add such a beautiful and surprising gift. Few people understand truly, unless they themselves have had to re-arrange and re-define themselves, what it means to have to literally re-invent yourself, literally shear away your geographic, cultural, spiritual and verbal identity and re-configure self from scratch. Unless one has had to re-create themselves in a new language (and much of the ‘who’ we are is defined by the language with which we express ourselves and negotiate the meaning of our lives, spiritually and practically), it is hard to imagine that kind of re-arrangement. What I have loved, always loved about the work, is that it is honest and rich in it’s both excavation and evocation of that process and it’s dog-eared relationship to place and history and culture: double re-imaginings. the connection to self and it’s bifurcation, the connection to the thread and ministry of russian photography and literature, all the compartments of self that are shaped and shorn….shifted and shelved…..

    I am continually inspired by the courage and the beauty and the refusal to abandon, inside the tug of all your beautiful, intelligent, passionate and richly truthful work….I love it so much….

    Mike: marina DOES develop the negatives with Rodinal….by the way….and high contrast is a vision that may or may not be a particular part of a photographers orientation…also, as you know, construction and collage have a long and important tradition in russian art and particularly in russian photography and i would ask you to re-consider your statement “not intellectual…Try harder.”…im not sure that this project is ‘intellectual’ at all, though at it’s center lay a very specific intellectual engagement and concept (which at times may be too hermetic for some) with self-identity, place, and memory as well as with the place of russian photography…it’s that kind of obnoxious patronizing comment that has affirmed for me exactly why i’ve decided to no longer participate….the work is not documentary, nor is it ‘conceptual’ in the sense that you maybe have been oriented by, but is part of a specific tradition, a lyrical tradition, to explore through both idea and form, the very things that make up the way someone images a place, reacts, reconstructs…it is indeed personal, and self-reflecting, but that is what the project is about…her questions, her attempts to grasp as what her own identity means, the relationship to place…the clues are all there, and those more familiar with moscow might see the specific historical importance, but yes, there are mostly internal and personal images and moments….just as with Duane Michaels and F. Woodman, her images are steeped in personal stories, which may not be accessible, but what is accessible is the value of the attempt for the work to engage with itself, for her to engage with the medium of photography as a vehicle through which a person can begin to arrest and attest to these elemental questions…

    ALL: forgive me, and i hope it isn’t too put-offish, but I wanted to leave part of a long essay that I wrote for Marina’s work….as celebration and commentary….it’s a long essay, so i’ll share but a part of it:

    We create that which invents us and name it home.

    And though the world rises before us, we are its constructor. We stitch together from a tapestry of twig and feather the nest from our surroundings, kingfishers tucking at the muck and stain, the light and ligature, tucking the world into our beaks and carrying it over land and time until we’ve perched and begun to shape it into a loamy hull. This hull our refuge. And all the small crooks and knuckled branches, the memories and experiences, the quotidian and the quixotic churned and chewed into the clay that will shape the world we call home. Along with the detritus and deposits, an accumulated crew of observations gathered and held before us until it remains fast, the outline and scaffolding of “you.” The joinery a loom of trickled time shuttled back and fourth into an assembled shape, the finery a tapestry of earthy materials become a frock that we wear the days of our lives. We call this garment a village, city, nation, home, the turf from which we believe an understanding can emerge, our identity, our malleable, squeaky self. But we are more. We are inventors. Look around. Look around.

    What then is this task, the task that we have each set for ourselves in our waking, that which has been described and spoken of as “identifying” and as “seeing”? The hum inside the organ of our being. And what is this thing called place and what is that which we imagine as knowing? Is it not a conjuring, an awakening to the alchemy of our own creation? How is it that we begin to make sense of our whereabouts, how to carve out a home, a patch of time and swatch of hobbled earth into which we can locate ourselves: between the pitch and pull of the earth? …..

    An algebra of our fancy, a witchcraft of transcription. We sculpt the world over which we travel, we write the books that author us, imagined and transformed. The alchemy at the heart of our lives.

    And it is alchemy, the white witchcraft of dreams, that triggers the heart of the work of Marina Black. Make no mistake about this, hers is one centered on transfiguration. Less concerned with replication, her photographs work the intersection of dream, between the hatching of a world that has been re-imagined and re-harnessed as a way to expose the skeleton of experience’s bulwark. This is readily apparent in her long-term project “Russia.” Within the body of this work-in-progress is an act of transformation, to knit from disparate elements the complexity and ambiguity of identity, the collisions and the contradictions, especially as they are bound by the specifics of place: Russia. Beginning with a re-imagining of her city of birth and upbringing, Moscow, Marina’s project attempts to thread together the gossamer patterns of dream and memory unto a framework of self-reinvention. Her pictures attempt, stitch by stitch, to return her experiences of Russia, as a child, as a young adult and as an adult who has left and return, both through travel and imagintion. Fertile, the pictures return the city to the damp and sinewy corner of memory and chimera.

    As an immigrant, often cut off and removed from her native home and language, Marina has had to has had to re-imagine and re-construct both the city and the nation as a way to delve into the questions of ‘Who Am I?” as well as a way to explore her own Russian identity. From where does identity come, the ‘me’ from within the ‘I’? And though the pictures are undeniably of Moscow, in truth they are akin to self-portraits, maps and projections really of her own excavation, an archaeological digging into the desert of dream and psyche. Less about the geographic place “Russia,” the series is a composite of intersections and stories, as Cortazar’s “Hopscotch”, photographs which work as a labyrinth along which questions begin to tangel and later unravel. Cut up cityscapes, scribbled upon seas, etchings marked upon the doors of scratched film negatives. If place is etched upon us, why not in turn carve upon it, as if scratches along skin?

    In this series, Marina has transformed Moscow, at times literally cut-up and re-arranged the city located on the negatives of her film, re-taken it, seeded it, made it hers. The city begins to re-emerge as a different city, a city more approximate to that of her interior memories and fixations. She has slowed this frantic city down to the pulse of breath. A city delirious and frought with mad movement has been culled, metamorphosed into silence and calm, as if a white basilica set a top of hill. A row of small teeth settled upon a darkened pillow one moment, a row of houses become a line of clothes, small flags fingered by the wind. Later, the city is Atlantis, popping up like a white stone or tooth, rolling above a wave that is a Leviathan’s devouring, black tongue. The city spilling out, as if dream after dream in the morning: a building become a key hole, a river turned into a child’s face, a treeth pitched upon against the skin of a window, faces like the flight of vowels, shadow like the words of a dream. Moscow has become not the city, but the place that Marina’s imagination inhabits. Silent and caught, there in the inside belly of a monastery’ great bell, in mid-swing, before the tongue has tonged and the singing beings: the silence of the space between letters. A meditation and a liturgy. That reimagined space becomes identity. The dark crown of knowing.
    And though we bare and bruise the witness of the life around us, is not in truth the land that bares the brunt and stain of us. We bare the land around us because it is we that give it birth. We fall into earth long before we begin our step into flight and we are transfigured. If we understand anything, anything at all, it might be this simple truth: we migrate, continually, inside and out. We are tempered and transposed and tampered with by land and sky and sea. It shifts and shapes and sifts inside us, sitting until it (the trees, the water, the dusty earth) becomes us: the metamorphosis. Though is it really us who are transformed or have we been, all along, the transformer. Maybe it is we who bewitch and beguile the land and sea and sky. Maybe we ensorcel that which is around us, shape and hex it so that it resembles us, is defined by us, elliptically wakes inside us because it, place, is of us. We stain the land. We scent it with our hopes and fears and memories; we carve out from this migratory and shifting path, something else. We mark place with our scent, bend light upon its slippery back until it alights. A sky is dampened with yellow because we dream it to life. A sea opens wide its hilly mouth, small dots of cyan and amber teeth, because we have instrumented its awaking. Do we sense this?

    This place about which we all speak, the yawing yawn of the sky, the tin earth, the coppery river, the tick and tour of our passing lives, is the country into which we move and mark and make. Water everywhere, inside and out, tiding with our internal tide. Is it not our mass which lens the shift and shape of the spate, the wax and wane of the river’s tongue, the lapping of the sea born of our own tongued-tied movement: we the shaper of tide and flux, not the moon. We are the bodies of water; we the effluvium; we the patterned, oxygenated blood upon which the earth travels. We the highway and the world the wearied and still fighting traveler. Can you hear the tock and spin of earth’s compass inside you? Can you hear the Moscow’s clocks inside the tocking and the rocking of these photographs.

    It is, migrating, is it not?

    To live as if the only voice in your body was the spin and hum of the world.

    ok, zi, that’s it ;)))))))))))))))))….

    ochen ochen lublu!


  20. i am SO breaking the one post rule here…
    but BOB, thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent, poetic post.
    a nice break from the ridiculous crap that has been going on here. SO unwanted and from this point on, i think, ignored.

    its always great to hear your thoughts. you raise the bar.

  21. wow… there are no words left for me after seeing this… i literally just a few hours ago met with bob and marina for coffee and now i get to come home to this… i was left completely stopped… stuck in this world… in this vision… i love this work… marina you should be proud… i will send you a pm.

    so amazing!! so refreshing!!

    and thanks bob for the post. you always know what to say amigo!

  22. Lovely, profound, telling.

    Jim Powers – you could benefit from a little introspection. You seem to find so little work on this site up to your obviously too-high standards; it’s a wonder you continue to return here.

  23. Hello to everyone! Thank you for sharing your comments with me. It’s a great joy to find people who share my vision, even more thrilling when it’s appreciated by those who share a different vision yet do not chicken out to expand their horizons with effort and patience. It’s also good to see people who challenge my work. Surprisingly, it works well for my creativity, I was born among people who thrive on long and cold winters and look how amazingly creative they are :)

    Special thank you to people I’ve had the chance to meet in person or even through distance over the emails:
    Lisa, Oli, Panos, Erica, Imants, Velibor, Mike: dear friends, I’m always happy to hear from you! Thank you for your presence.

    Special thank you for Mr Black who pushes me harder than any Rodinal and challenges me artistically and philosophically more than mr.Freud prescribed. Thank you for being so patient and as always supportive.

  24. Im sorry for breaking the one comment, short note to Akaky: спасибо :) i bet he played the wicked too. This year I read everything in Russian or about Russia, if you need any recommendations, plenty :)

    To answer Joe’s question: the approach would be akin to writer’s approach who looks for his characters in life, then adds to them bits of his own ideas and finishes with touches of fiction. The work is intuitive, the camera often sees things that might be unnoticed at first, they almost pursue you and all I have to do is just observe. I’ve always been fascinated by cultural mythologies, even when it’s not related to Russia. As each culture has it’s own mythology and symbolism and these symbols, gestures are reflected in the writing, poetry, storytelling, art, the more I learn about and explore a culture, including my own , the clearer the picture seems to become. In other words, working with those ‘symbols’, it allows me to explore the ideas and identities . Symbols become less “personal’ but more apparent and simple. And no more aversion, no more struggle. I try to welcome such experiences. Russia is just a bit more familiar territory. Thank you :)

  25. Tactile yet not too telling. Hinting rather than explaining. Personal and universal. Who among us has not searched through the shards of memory while trying to make sense of our lives? Original exploration using photography as a tool to dig deeper and put together. Archaeological yet oh so present in the here-and-now.

    Brava, Marina. May your journey take you into the depths of your/our heart.


  26. An exciting essay that followed the preamble without confusion. I liked the quiet and slowness of the unraveling of the memories – there is much joy here. Congratulations Marina – Toronto has been a wonderful finishing school for you!


  27. This is beautiful. Is it photojournalism or documentary photography? It doesn’t matter. It gets to the core of what we are all trying to achieve. It is courageous, emotive and expressive, qualities I see lacking in many photographer’s work. I stopped and played the essay many times over and like a great film or novel it kept me ruminating well into the night. Kudos to you Marina Black.

  28. Johan Jaansen

    This essay carries a universal message that transcends all borders and boundaries and in doing so it offers a portal into the human psyche. I felt as though I was transported into a lucid dream, where memories and thoughts from my own childhood were recalled. It is not often that the viewer is confronted with work that has the capacity to evoke that eerie feeling of a dejavu.

    This genre of personal documentary through introspection has really gained ground over the last few years. The first photograph sucked me into the author’s world and I felt myself wanting to know more. In a way it throws a challenge at the viewer: enter, but it won’t be an easy ride. This essay is rare because it succesfully marries both style and content into a unique vision. Ultimately this essay doesn’t succumb to the trap of using style for styles sake. Also, I can tell that the photographer is well read through the work and has an excellent sense of history. The essay isn’t intellectually empty. The photographs also elicit an emotional response from the viewer and at times it is disturbing, but also beautiful. I am reminded of some text in Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Idiot’ where the protaginist Prince Myshkin is on the ‘brink’:

    “The Gardens were deserted; a darkness clouded the setting sun for a moment. It was oppressive; there was something like the distant premonition of a thunderstorm. In his present contemplative state there was for him a kind of allure. He clung with his memories and mind to each external object, and this pleased him: he kept wanting to forget something, the present, the vital, but at a first glance around him he at once again recognized his gloomy thought, the thought he so much wanted to get rid of”.

    The texture and grain of the work was a pure delight and I often felt tempted to graze the screen with my fingertips, just to confirm that the presence of this grain. Also, the fact that the medium was film lends authenticity to the theme of memory and loss. Often to my parent’s dismay, I find myself tearing out old black and white photographs from my grandparents albums, and the presence of their grainy texture draws me into their world. Sucks me into their vortex. I doubt that this project would have been as legitimate if it was done as a digital medium. As well as the themes of memory/loss, I also felt that nothing more that this essay was a celebration of film as a medium in itself.

    As film is composed up of ground animal gelatin, then it stands to reason that this animal gelatin also contains DNA. It is an interesting to comtemplate whether our genetic makeup can be influenced by the clash of cultural norms, or alternatively our DNA is ‘there to stay’. I think through the presentation of various photographs, Marina is saying that our DNA is alterable through experience and this is evident in #23 where the photo is either damaged or defaced, but it still survives like a faded memory. This is a lovely touch. I also like how #19 shows possibly water damage and this is symbolic of the degradation of memory over time. The idea of permanence and loss symbolised through damaged/degraded photographs is central to the whole essay.

    In a sense the essay felt like a homage to German expressionism, notably in the film ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’. The sense of flashback in addition to the use of light, shadow and the positioning of objects in the photographic frame really feels like a throwback to this style of movie direction. I adored how the photos didn’t have that perfect glossy finish, the coarse look through the grain and imperfections actually adds credibility to the project as a whole.

    Here are some of my thoughts on the individual shots, so please bear with me:

    #2 Apocalyptic, I feel on the edge of a precipice, about to fall into a deep black void. Jason Pollack eat your heart out. Love the lack of shadow detail here and the storm clouds brewing in the distance. Disturbing. Refer to Dostoyevsky quote above, as its a perfect parallel.

    #3 The clock is a necessary shot to signify time. The opened door on the left, perhaps a passage into another dimension/lifetime. The vignetting works well here, adds to the atmosphere.

    #4 Photographs defaced or worn through time. Necessary to the whole theme. The scissor work was done roughly, I wonder what is the meaning for this?

    #5 Fantastic photograph of the schoolchildren. I was reminded of Sylvia Plachy when I saw this, but this has a unique style through the rough grain and triangles at the back of the photograph. They are an ominous sign. I’m also sure that some people may compare your work with Sylvias. However, I am finding that I have a lot more in common with this essay.

    #6 Cross-cultural transportation. Its inclusion is important to the sequence and overall theme. No accident it was early in the sequence. Like the bed in the later photograph, the plane is a physical indicator that this project transcends cultures, borders. Although introspective, it carries a universal message.

    #7 Perhaps father figure looking into the distance. Love the appearance of cobwebs with the trace of fingerprints, especially that they have survived the long haul of time.

    #8 The best portrait possibly photograph of the set. Tension with the close crop. It is haunting. Ralph Gibson eat your heart out.

    #9 Surreal with the superimposed image of the boy on the buildings. I feel a sense of music and this photograph is a throwback to the golden days of jazz in Chicago. .

    #10 Russian orthodox church steeped in shadow. Timing is perfect with the person about to be engulfed by the large shadow. Time does indeed engulf everything. I felt that the man walking into the shadow is symbolic of when memory fades. Trent Parke eat your heart out. Now there is no turning back in this essay as I have stepped over the threshold out of my comfort zone.

    #12 I didn’t like this photo as much due to the expression on the face. It didn’t feel consistant with the rest of the essay. Especially in comparison to #8.

    #13 The concept of time again with the clock, the TV as a projector of culture and the bedroom, the vechile for the dreamstate where childhood visions can be recalled. Killer shot. I felt a homage to Kertesz Chez Mondrian photograph. Or, Friedlanders famous hotel room shot with the TV at the end of the bed. You have done this with your own flare and imagination.

    #14 Disturbing photograph, like a cut from a japanese horror movie that often feature children and their discarded toys. The bicycle is symbolic of memory being relegated to the ‘back room’. The bike was obviously put here deliberately, but the question that this photograph poses is whether memories are deliberately lost or naturally through the slow passage of time. This photograph works on many levels.

    #15 Their is a paradox between the happy expression of the child and the rays of light or streamers that seem to suck the spirit of the kid at the same time. Creepy.

    #16 I don’t think that it was necessary to tilt the lens like this to keep the audience ‘on edge’, because I am already losing my balance through the symbolism and contrast. The vignetting however works well and sets of the clouds. It would have worked just as well if it was straight. This kind of tilt was not necessary as the content was already very strong.

    #17 Under and overexposed in one cut. Versions of memories change and fade over time as well. Clever photo.

    #18 Film noir in its technique and result. The lighting is spectacular in this shot, as the lady (perhaps mother) seems oblivious to the pulsating spotlight above her.

    #21 This feels like homage to one of Man Ray’s elaborately staged photographs. It is beautifully done, but I am struggling to see how it fits into the overall sequence.

    #22 The feeling of family and warmth is juxtaposed by the scary vignetting. I think that Marina is saying that we should enjoy these tender moments and make the most of them, because they are not permanent. The shadow signifies the decay of memory.

    #24 This is a very sensitive photograph and it would have taken a lot of intuition to be able to capture those contrasting gestures on the children’s faces. Like it a lot.

    #26 The raindrops on the window are a fantastic mosaic. This photo has a painterly quality. It works on both an art and documentary level. Now, please tell me Marina, but this reminds me of the last shot in the Russian movie ‘Russian Ark’ (one of my favorites)esp. the voyage, in that movie the ark is the protector of the states art. Now did you have this in mind??

    #27 Looks similar to a Dacha. Also necessary photograph given Marina’s ancestry. Good execution. I like how this was photographed in strong summer light, different to my image of a Russian Dacha weighed down by winter snow with more ambient light. So, perhaps in conclusion Marina is saying that it is possible to marginally modify our genetic makeup (memories) through the presence or absence of light on film :-) Memories fade and change, but their base remains the same?

    #28 My favorite photograph, I will one day procure a print! This photograph is art, pure and simple. It feels like a shot from Ralph Gibson’s, san francisco, new york or sonnumbalist series. But it is unique in its own way and has the author’s fingerprints all over it. Beautiful. Evocative. Poetic in the childs movement.

    #29 Their is the author, a necessary but important filler. The exposure is perfect and I love the view of the garden through the window. A perfect way to finish.

    Fantastic essay. I am in awe. Never give up on this series! I would love to one day excel to this level. Good luck Marina and I believe that this essay must be published one day. I want to see this in print as I believe with a few more photographs, that this series will become an integral part of the popular contemporary photography booklist.


  29. Marina,
    I like to tell you a short story. Something that happened to me last Saturday. As you know, I am still trying to get the old water turbine going. One of the main problems is rust. The rust of time. By chance I discovered an environemtally friendly way to loosen the rust off the metal. Potatoes and water do the job for me (no joke). I simply have to be patient. So last Saturday I had a totally rusted piece of metal in my hand and I thought I will give it a try. I had nearly thrown it away, because it seemed so thoroughly rusted after 30 years under water, covered in mud. I took a metal brush and got rid of the most heavy bits of rust. Then suddenly I could see metal and I could recognize what it was: a screw cap for greasing the moving parts inside the turbine. Eventually I could turn it and open it and the fat or grease inside was still perfectly intact after 30 years of quiet rest. That was certainly a moment! My grandmother, her name is Marie, had put it inside. When I was a child I spent days with my grandmother milling the flour (can you say that???). She died when I was 11 years old, way too early. So I am on a journey of discovering the past and make it work for the future. I hope I can use this srew again.
    Travelling around Russia is a great idea! My own past has been shaped by this big country as well so I have to go myself as well and start to dig out parts of my own past and future!
    So I guess we have to meet sooner or later!
    Looking forward to see you Dima and Bob one day!
    Thank you so much for sharing your vision!

  30. i suggest another rule beside the one comment per person: no more than 20 lines per post! (i never read them when they are longer though)

  31. I immediately connected this work to Tatiana Grigorenko’s essay (one of the EPF finalists)… I don’t know really why, since the differences between the two are greater than the similarities, both in premises and execution. The only point of contact is that both women began a trip to the same physical motherland: Marina helding the thread of her own memories (“I follow my own footsteps, haunt my former life”); Tatiana, without real memories, “chasing a phantom: rather than finding the country my parents had told me about, I am meeting the self/selves I could have been”.

    Tatiana shot in an almost straightforward documentary style, focusing on the decadence (not sure it’s the right word…) that is apparently growing and growing in the wake of the former Empire (but the decadence was probably already there, only covered by the sovietic silence). And, imo, she fails in realizing her “fictional autobiography” due to the detachment introduced by such stylistic choice.
    On the other hand, Marina clearly states the limitations of the photographic medium, beyond every possible stylistic choice. In an attempt to get along these limits, she imposes a sort of additional layer over the images… but instead of adding depth, such layer leaves the images short of breathe imo. It’s as if the focus is shifted some inches above the image itself. In other words, I feel a gap between the “original” photographs “contained” in the negatives (photographs which in most cases appear “weak” as stand-alone), and the way those same negatives are treated and reproduced in the essay; I guess that, in author’s intentions, such gap should not be perceived and the “final” images should be looked at as a whole.

    I’m pretty much confused by both essays, and I’m sure that my confusion is clearly readable in the comment above (in particular by the increasing use of quotation marks towards the end)… and my limited ability to express in English just adds up to the mental entropy I’m stuck in. So, please forgive me… ;)

  32. Great work, Marina. It’s very personal. It seems I could relate with your experience, emotions, thoughts, and vision through this essay. As such, photography really connects people.

    Anyway, this place is great for beginning photography learners like me. Thanks to all for making Burn happen.

  33. Marina, I really loved this essay. Your use of cut-up negatives, vignetting (with your hands possibly, trying to capture a moment in a frame, a virtual frame in a frame), hand held older photographs. It evoked emotions of my own memories and connection with a distant past obscured by the serpent of time and illusion of place. Maybe remembered more as fictional than real, dream-like. This theme of dreams comes up in many posts and I think you have hit on something at an archetypal level. This does come across as an alchemical process, transmutation from subconscious materia prima, destruction and reconfiguration to form the lapis philosophorum in the final creative product. I would say leaning more to Jung than to Freud.

    “First we bring together, then we putrefy, we break down what has been putrefied, we purify the divided, we unite the purified and harden it. In this way is One made from man and women.” (Buchlein vom Stein der Weisen, 1778)

    All the best and continued success,


  34. Marina,

    There are many winds in your photographs… I feel that…
    Like collection of plants, your memories were collected and dried …and they smells quietly…

    the picture of your hand is very strong and symbolic …it seems to be territory of your home county and your identity to me..

    Thank you so much for such beautiful works… I love it..:)))


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