Lost Karelian landscapes/2019–2020
(by Andrii Dostliev & Olga Zelenska)

Series of photographs documenting long-term performance, drawings, dried plants.

This work is based on the research of Finnish vernacular photography from the 1930s and 1940s and of its changes caused by wars with the USSR and by the experiences of forced mass evacuation from Karelia occupied by Soviet troops.

For thousands of Karelian evacuees previously mundane amateur photos of their own houses became effectively the only visual link with the lost homeland. Something that used to take a secondary place in the family album acquired new meanings and new weight. These photographs were reproduced, re-drawn, some people would even order big coloured paintings to be painted after a small faded black-and-white picture. Every now and then these paintings still decorate the houses of even the second generation of evacuees and, despite the occasional colouristic discrepancies, still function as a link with the land of their parents.

When the borders were opened in the 90s, those who were evacuated from these lands half a century ago got their first legal opportunity to visit the sites of their childhood. Many of them would take this opportunity only to find a burnt-out black rectangular shape in the place where their house used to stand. Some of them would preserve these traces on film to have it added to their family albums.

We started with re-drawing Karelian houses from amateur pre-war photos onto hand-made paper mixed with seeds of plants ubiquitous in Finland. When these seeds started growing, we documented this growth in the landscape until it was time to violently interrupt this growth and to dry the pictures for a makeshift herbarium.

The project and the accompanying research were made with support from Serlachius residency (Mänttä, Finland).

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