My father was born in the village of Yandy in 1955. In 1960-1961, prior to the flood of the Bratsk dam, the village of Yandy was relocated and became part of the village of Anosovo - a bigger settlement on the shore of the Angara River. There, he spent part of his childhood before embarking on a long travel with his mother. I am telling the story in more detail in my other writings. Here I want to share a series of photographs - perhaps even many series, we will understand as we go along - that my father took, mostly in the village of Anosovo in Priangarie, in 2015, the year he decided to return to Anosovo in a new capacity - that of an elected official, and 2016, when that happened. These photographs he took on his iPad, and for the past five years they were sitting in a folder on my computer (and also, I assume, he still has them too). As I am writing up my Anosovian dissertation now, I decided to brush through this folder which contains 1655 photographic images, in search of a photograph - or two - that I can use in my manuscript. I did not plan to linger on these images, but as I moved along, some of them began stopping me with their beauty. Anosovo in these images is simultaneously like and unlike it is in my photographs. My father, it seems to me, has a less self-absorbed and introverted eye of a photographer than I do. His photographs are "placeable," people in them, recognizable, and places, pictured in a report-like, useful manner - much more useful than the way I photograph, in a kind of a more generic way. Simultaneously, my father's photographs are deeply pensive and lyrical, contain a lot of detail, and possess, it seems to me, an affective atmosphere. Some of them depict worlds: an old woman - this is "grandmother Dusya" in her garden, a hay stack gatherers putting hay in stacks, people waiting for a ferry or at the riverboat mooring - all of these photographs provide context, situate people somewhere, and have what Roland Barthes called "punctum": something striking about them, an attractive detail as opposed to a generic "ethnological knowledge," a kind of boring even if useful information "of the time and place" (Barthes called it "studium"). As a photographer, my father is not afraid to direct the camera into people's faces - by contrast, my photographs often tend to be people-less. All of these qualities make his photographs a precious source for me in my work, and I decided to put a selection of them on this website to display them to others and have access to them myself. I did not edit, nor did I alter in any way these photographs - merely made a selection.
Dusya at her garden in Anosovo
Fishing: Evening and Morning
What was apparent to me in these photographs, as I went through them, is that my father loves Anosovo. These photographs are saturated with feeling. The travel, for him, to Anosovo, life there, was evidently a joyful experience. The pleasures of this visitation, of returning, of coming back, fishing, hay stacking, conversations, seeing relatives and friends, were clearly enjoyable, that much I was able to gather from looking at the images that he took. I thought about how it was probably different for me, for while I very much wanted to go to Anosovo, and enjoyed my time there, my photographs were decidedly less nostalgic, which is probably not surprising considering that I have not indeed spent my childhood there. For me, this place was close and is important, but I have not achieved such a direct-action type interaction with it. I could say I aestheticized and even exoticized it, if not in my photographs, per se (that is a matter that can only be evident from a deeper analysis, I am kind of ranting here), then certainly in my texts (traces of this aetheticizations even now are probably evident in this website). I wonder if this is something that should "inevitably" arise from any type of, as some anthropologists like to call it, "curatorial work," or the work of selection, display, making galleries - even web gathering. Even what I am doing now, selecting the "best" out of his pictures, out of a disorderly archive that is much more than my curtailing selections, is also a trimming of the things.
Living in Anosovo, for me, at least, is living on a move. And not only for me! Because there is a limited number of things available locally, one has to travel, every now and then, to a dentist, for goods that otherwise it is difficult to obtain or there is a limited selection of them, and, sometimes, to visit relatives and friends, too. There is a lot of coming and going, and a back-and-forth movement. These photographs capture moments of various travels, and they seem to reflect a variety of moods.
At a House
What struck me also in these photographs is their intimate quality, sense of domesticity - these scenes from the everyday life are only possible to take if the photographer does indeed, as we are often promised but rarely shown, becomes a part of environment, a sort of a person who is not attracting much of attention because their presence is sort of expected, and it is not an out-of-the-ordinary disruption of events.
These two photographs, that I united by the word "Podmoskovie" - a near-Moscow region - although technically, it is not true, as the photo of the playground was taken in Moscow - I added for the sake of - just for the sake of adding some more photographs that appear interesting to me, even if they are not from Anosovo. Particularly the photo of the playground is fun, in my opinion, and here is why. One of the ideas of my father while he was a mayor was to build a building of the administration, for which he solicited money from businesspeople, and were given, or directed, a sum (that is still on the Anosovo's account, the new mayor is going to manage the construction) that he intended to spent on a log building; timber was also given, separately, by other benefactors. In the iPad images through which I was going there were plenty of downloaded images from the web of the log constructions of different kind, and this new - at the time - also attracted his attention for the same reasons: the log. There is a series of photographs looking at the details of the logs intersections, but I shall not of course publish it here, for the purpose of those were technical. I still thought it fun that the downloaded images of the log houses, that at first I took as little more than a nuisance as I went along the collection of the images were, in fact, there. That was an evidence of a continuous working project, which, even if it did not come to fruition so far, has a chance to materialize in the future, still.
The Portrait of My Father at the Village Club
This is the photograph of my father in the club of the village of Anosovo during the meeting with the people before the election. Here, again, I see spectacularly accomplished the common project of "visual anthropology" that consists in giving people in the whatever place the cameras and asking them to photograph and bring the researcher the photos for the analysis. Often, it is done with the goal to analyze these images and see something, through them, in the place, "culture," "customs," "people" themselves, or whatever the researcher fancies - something otherwise inaccessible, for we only can see through our own eyes, and never through the eyes of others. While I have seen some interesting implementations of such a project, I think, here is an example of a very successful one, even if short-lived. The photographer is unknown to me. They were given the same camera (iPad) for the duration of the meeting and evidently asked to snap several photographs, which they did. I selected one of those photographs, in which the light is on the background, which happens to be the center of the event - the table covered with a pink tablecloth, blue wall, murals on the walls, and a vase with flowers. (I also like the light at the back of a chair in the first row.)
I only went through half of the collection of the visuals that I have from the time most of which are the photographs taken by my father Alexander Orlov in 2015-2016. I am going to continue browsing the collection until I reach the end and hopefully will be able to select something else. It was fun to see Anosovo through the lens of my father's iPad. There were other photographers whose archives are related to Anosovo one or the other way which I possess, and, slowly, I will come to observe if not all then probably most of them. In other words, to be continued, dot dot dot.