The three peripheries are a small part of a huge collage called Russia. The three outskirts: Karelia, Altai and Chukotka, are connected with each other by invisible lines in the form of a triangle, a flat pyramid, a mystical figure forming a cornerstone, symbolising the foundations of bases, the essence of essences. I would like to say that in the centre of the triangle is the eye of photographer Misha Maslennikov, who drew this figure and saw the invisible and incomprehensible, and brought important truths to us.
Misha Maslennikov is a documentary photographer who explores that complex Russian world, which exists on a certain borderline, at the very top, perhaps somewhere on the edges, or maybe in the very heart, living in spite of the all-consuming and destroying civilisation of big cities. In Michael’s interpretation, the edge looks like a soul that has found peace and temporary shelter. Or maybe as the last outpost before something terrible, unknown, insurmountably impending, overhanging…
Misha is a poet. His pictures read in rhyme. They sound softly, like the poems of the “quiet lyricists” of the sixties. They are inexhaustible and deep. There is no limit in them. Maslennikov in the mighty tradition of writers and artists for more than a hundred years erased soles in search of subjects in villages in the farthest outskirts of the empire. The photographer, himself an ascetic, searches the outskirts for ascetics trying to harmonise the world, at least in themselves. And the photographs convey this harmony, their structure is perfectly balanced and the viewer, absorbing their fragile luminescence, falls into an inevitable trance, generating the emotion: “We must leave everything and go to the end of the world…”.
Look at the photos, glide your eye deep and wide. Pay attention to the hands. These hands tell a story. They are ready to protect, to support, to become wings. They call out and do not let in. The hands hang powerlessly meek, lifeless and doomed… At times. I slash my pupil against the horizon — the lurking character of photographs in the distance. There, beyond that horizon, I am, writing an article. I am there and here at the same time… I hear the creaking of a swing and a prayerful whisper.
The heroes of Maslennikov’s pictures are surprisingly positive characters. They are like inhabitants of another dimension, where there are no rich and very poor, where spirituality reigns and man is so close to nature that he seems to be a part of it, not an enemy and destroyer.
The photographer introverts reality, depriving it of social conflicts and publicistic nervousness. He builds before us an ideal world filled with a mysterious pathos of closeness to God and a stern, conservative attitude to tradition. These photographs are a sermon and a story about how good life would probably be. But the sky above the heroes of the pictures is dark and often shadows hide their eyes. Only the children look clear and pure. Their gazes cross somewhere in the centre of the triangle — Karelia, Altai and Chukotka.