Short Stalks at Distant Shores // Christoph Grill //

Between 1999 and 2010, austrian photographer Christoph Grill visited the successor states of the Soviet Union. As he writes in the epilogue to Short Stalks at Distant Shores – the resulting comprehensive photographic survey of all 15 former Soviet republics – the first trip to Ukraine was not guided by any concrete goal, but rather an “initial curious step into almost completely unfamiliar terrain.” Seeking out peripheral regions in “already marginal countries,” Grill has produced a fascinating work depicting landscapes of faded grandeur haunted by the ghosts and abandoned dreams of history.

The photographs in Short Stalks at Distant Shores do not tell a story. Instead, in Grill’s precisely composed wide screen images we are led on an almost anthropological tour through a surrealistic world of closed factories, decommissioned military complexes and forgotten monuments.

There are people amongst these barren landscapes and fragile ruins. Yet the overall feeling is one of desolation. In one particularly evocative scene, a Russian woman sits quietly on a discarded car seat, warmed by a fire of damp driftwood as she watches looming storm clouds darken an already bleak vista of rusting ship hulls in a watery graveyard on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

At the same time, Grill’s gaze does not luxuriate in grim stereotypes of Soviet austerity. While his desire to avoid urban or industrial centers renders the experience of loneliness and marginalization a reality, we also glimpse in Short Stalks at Distant Shores an innate human resilience. From a shepherd in Armenia using a forgotten bus wreck as a pergola, to a hunter who has set up house in the guard barracks of a former penal camp for women on the Russian island of Sakhalin, one is reminded of how ideological passions flare and dim, but life goes on.

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Christoph Grill nació en 1965 en Austria y realizó estudios de biología y antropología entre 1991 y 2000. vive y trabaja como fotógrafo freelance y paleozoólogo en Graz, Austria. Desde 1996 ha viajado asiduamente a los antiguos países socialistas de Europa oriental y los Balcanes. En 1999 comenzó un basto proyecto sobre las antiguas repúblicas soviéticas. Su primera muestra individual tuvo lugar en 2005: SSSR, Fotogalerija Stolp, Maribor (Eslovenia). Ha participado en varias exposiciones colectivas, entre ellas: Sie befinden sich hier/You are here, Camera Austria, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz (Austria); Photo_Graz_06; 5. Fotosrecanje/Fotoincontro, Kulturni Dom, Gorizia (Italia); Verbindungen/Connections, Kulturhaus Graz, Graz y Pecs (Hungría); Vergrabene Wirklichkeiten, Fotogalerie Graz, Graz (Austria). Ha publicado en revistas como Submarine, Die wiete Welt und das Dorf y Foto & Video. En 2006 fue galardonado con un premio especial de fotografía por la ciudad de Graz.

 

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