When I heard about Anna Shteynshleyger being awarded a Guggenheim, I remembered her Siberia project, thinking I had linked it already. Actually, I had not - which I noted when checking after finding Pete Brook’s recent post.
Pete’s post is very interesting, in that it indicates that there are no photographic conventions established, yet, for how to deal with the Gulag - which might reflect that the discussion (or actually amount of discussion) is still very much in flux. In fact, now that Russia has descended into a sort of authoritarian quasi-democracy, the Gulag there seems to be evolving into a non-topic, with, for example (one is tempted to write: consequently), the St.Petersburg headquarters of the human rights organisation Memorial being raided just a little while ago.
I’m even a bit tempted to see Anna’s refusal to provide explanations as a refusal to provide simple answers. This is not something we are used to any longer: that things might have more facets than just one; and that not getting a simple answer (which allows us to move on) forces one to think. This is where I’m placing contemporary photography, in that open space, where the viewer becomes a participant instead of being merely the recipient of some “fact” (or “truth”).
Either way, those more interested in the Gulag might want to have a look at Anne Applebaum’s excellent Gulag: A History.