|Postcards from unattainable lands
||[Apr. 26th, 2014|10:28 pm]
A clutch of unfinished (and unstarted) posts seem to be accreting around a common theme - or perhaps it's just that wherever I start out, I return to the same interests.
On Monday we persuaded Gail to accompany us to the Glass Centre in Sunderland, because I wanted to see their exhibition of Chris Blade's photographs from the Arctic. It was a tiny exhibition, one wall of the gallery overlooking the shop, perhaps ten or a dozen photographs in all - there is far more to see on his website. I liked this panoramic landscape, and was intrigued by this shot of a disused mineshaft, and spent a long time looking at it, wondering how it had been taken (not just the distortion introduced by the wide-angle lens, but the balance of dark interior and exterior light). At the Ouseburn Open Studios last autumn I had seen Stevie Ronnie's photos of the same abandoned Russian mining town, Pyramiden - evidently it is overrun by visiting artists. In fact, TripAdvisor rates it seventh out of nine attactions on Svalbard. There go any illusions I may have had about the remoteness of the northern wastes.
I have been reading Colin Thubron's In Siberia - the first of his books I've read, though I knew him by name, as a respected travel writer. He's a curious traveling companion, presenting himself and his personal reactions without concealment but without context. There's plenty of remoteness here, the vast expanse of Siberia being one of the few things I knew about it: but I had pictured it as frozen, empty, a blank canvas on which the horrors of the gulag could be written unhindered. I had not known of the many indigenous peoples who have lived there over the millennia, though perhaps I shuld have: if Peter the Great had a collection of prehistoric Siberian treasures, their existence is not exactly news. More recently, The "Ice Princess" has attracted her share of press coverage. The golden buckles are gorgeous, but what really astonished me was the survival of textiles from two and a half thousand years ago: a finely knotted carpet, a felt swan...
Via the Guardian, which ran a feature on historic photographs, I discovered the work of Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, pioneer of colour photography (he photographed Tolstoy in colour) who set out with the blessing of the Tsar to document the Russian Empire. Wikipedia has a gallery of his work; and there are some lovely photographs here from the Silk Road.