When I leave the Ottawa area the first thing I miss is the river and its spirit. The river is a part of me and I’m part of it.
My relationship with the Ottawa River started as a child, when water was the site for play, love, solace, and later, tragedy, following the death of my mother in the river. As an adult I scoured the forests and shorelines of my youth for images that illustrated a private history and framed rarely-seen landscape vignettes of the Ottawa Capital Region.
Using a plastic Holga camera I shot from the banks of the forest near Aylmer, Ottawa and Hull. The Holga captured the unrefined quality that my memory of the river demanded.
Lozhok is a place in Siberia about 60km from the city of Novosibirsk, where I was born.
From 1929 to 1956 there was a Gulag prison camp with a particularly brutal operation. In 27 years more than 30,000 people died there.
After the closure of the camp, the barracks in which the prisoners lived were destroyed. In their place, in the 1970s, a Palace of Culture, sports stadium and a school were built. Underground water sources filled one of the quarries, making it a lake. At its bottom there are tractors and other equipment from the time of the work camp. Another quarry is overgrown by vegetation.
I am interested in revealing the narratives contained within the local landscapes. The land here shows itself to be an agent of change and the field of human endeavour.
Despite the attempts of people, nature, and time to disguise the traces of those terrible events, this place definitely remembers everything.
My project Fading Away takes inspiration from some lines of a poem titled “Last Hours of the Promised Land” by the well-known Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.
Ungaretti wrote the poem in his old age. He recounts the journey of man’s life on an autumn afternoon. Absorbed in his thoughts, he retraces moments and memories that built his life.
On one of my train trips to Rome in 2018, looking at the landscape from the window, I remembered this poem by Ungaretti. I had a small camera with me and began to take pictures, freeing my mind from all thoughts. I wanted to be totally part of that moment and I knew that it would become part of my most intimate emotions.
These are small snapshots taken from the window of a train. I became lost in memories in this blurry landscape, which passes quickly, dissolving in a gaze. It was a journey of looking for my true self, an ephemeral path obscured by the daily whirlwind.
In this series I explored how the natural landscape of Savannah, Georgia, a port city in the USA, has been manipulated by the people who live there. I looked for scenes that show how the natural side and the artificial side of the city interact with one another. The subtropical climate creates a unique ecosystem within the city that is lush with natural growth.
Isolation due to the quarantine led me to examine the landscape and the repercussions of human activity on it, using Google Earth.
An instrument almost unknown to me suddenly turned out to be inspiring. The time has passed for searching for beauty. It’s time to look at reality and avoid looking elsewhere. It’s time to look the landscape issue in the eye and avoid rejecting it by chasing to the myth of the lyrical landscape. The landscape is spoiled, distorted and deformed. It’s imperative to have full awareness for the damages which our way of living keeps on producing in the whole planet.
These homemade collages, compositions of photographs drawn from Google Earth, create patterns which can alter reality and confuse the vision. The esthetic dignity, however, hides that which humans still struggle to recognize as an epochal disaster.
Paradoxically, what interests me most in photography is not the immediacy of the shot but the duration: a temporality made up of suspended moments, waiting and absence in a world in balance, a world of “almost nothing” where the presence of man is only suggested. This contradiction serves as a motor for me: before the natural observation of things, awareness of fleeting time and the desire to grasp it amalgamate.
More formally, the search for this same balance between opposing forces is found in the objects and structures photographed: play between full and empty, dialogue between the animate and the inanimate, fusion of the masculine and the feminine.
This series, titled Interstices, shows us how natural and modern elements coexist and interact. The architecture of structures and the architecture of nature seem to be animated by one and the same energy. All of these photographs were taken in France and Spain in 2019.
The day before climbing Mount Fuji, I stayed in Fujiyoshida, a few miles from the mythical mountain. Of course, the Japanese town is far from prestigious, but its apparent beauty is precisely what attracts and interests me. Moreover, as I discover it, and as I delve into its nooks and crannies, its contrasts appear to me and captivate me.
It’s raining. The streets of Fujiyoshida are deserted as if the city had been abandoned. But housing, crossroads, dead ends, parking lots speak for the absent population.
A scene painted on a garage door evokes the history of Japan and the patriotic sentiment of its owner. Household and computer equipment thrown away speaks of technology and Japanese capitalism. It suggests a hasty departure, an impression which is underlined by the wild vegetation seen in a parking lot or a cramped no-man’s land, old posters plastered on a dilapidated wall.
But ruin, decline, exile even, are merely an appearance, an illusion quickly swept away. In fact, the tidy habitat and open shutters evoke life like the gleaming cars, flowerbeds, advertising signs or that of a bar…
My journey through Fujiyoshida is formally punctuated by right angle shots and blind spots, which precede the discovery of new spaces.
My family’s past is connected with the places flooded to create the Rybinsk Reservoir on the Volga River, in Russia. This reservoir was once the largest man-made body of water on Earth.
Joseph Stalin forced more than 130,000 people to leave their homes and businesses between 1937 and 1941 to make way for the reservoir. Stone houses were destroyed, while wooden ones were dismantled and transported for use elsewhere.
Those who became homeless were given money, but had to find new homes on their own. Most people moved somewhere nearby, but some died, unable to survive the shock, the cold, illness and poverty. About 700 villages were flooded, along with over 50 churches, three monasteries, wealthy estates with surrounding territories, gardens and parks. The whole city of Mologa was flooded.
I was drawn to these places, to find people who would tell about the flooding. Articles from books were not enough. I needed live witnesses, those who kept the stories of their relatives. I needed photos, documents, letters and evidence. It is impossible to remain indifferent now, as it is impossible to change what happened. For a long time, there was a ban on talking about Mologa and people were afraid to share information. Even when it became possible, most people remained silent.
The portraits in my project are of people whose families were displaced by the flooding. They now live within 15 miles of the reservoir. I made the landscape photographs from a boat on the Rybinsk Reservoir or near its shore.
“Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other people’s pictures too – photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny, but that carry with them a reminder of community.”
— Robert Adams
I started the New Landscape Photography blog 10 years ago today, and have published the work of almost 700 artists.
As people’s interests have moved from blogs and websites to social media, the submissions here have fallen off. I used to get three or four a week. Now I might get that many in three months. I’ve thought about stopping operations and just preserving the site as an archive. But my favorite part remains, though less frequent: the interactions with the artists who want to share their work with my readers.
Most work that I review is excellent. I select five images from the 10 submitted and sequence them. I take a more active role with the statements. I want them to be clear, inviting, personal and thoughtful. They usually are already. I’m impressed with the English-language skills of artists around the world, but sometimes a few tweaks are needed for clarity or accuracy.
Six years ago I created a Facebook chat group — also called New Landscape Photography. It has grown to about 3,500 members, with collegial sharing of images, questions and ideas. Though the location of activity has changed, it goes on. I know that I depend on other people’s pictures. And so I’ll also keep this blog going. Please let me know if you’d like to share work here.
The picture below is from my current project — investigating the 1,000-mile Finger Lakes Trail, a footpath that winds through much of New York State and its public forests. I’ve been exploring primarily on the run.
For many years I have spent my summer holidays on the Riviera dei Fiori. It is a place I know very well, and to which I have already dedicated photographic series in the past.
Every time I come back here I enjoy taking long walks with the camera along the coast — from Ventimiglia, on the border with France, towards Sanremo to San Lorenzo a Mare. The images that make up this series are from the last two summers I spent in these places.
I have tried to capture very marginal and ordinary aspects of the landscape, which have a strong fascination for me.