It’s Friday, so let’s Meet This Photographer: Misha Maslennikov (@maslennikovmisha). Before the invasion, before the bombings and violence and war crimes, Misha used to travel for days and days into Russia’s remote countryside and into communities that stand apart from time. He spent years capturing the pastoral, peaceful lives of the residents of villages with names like Ugolnye Kopi, Lorino, and Anadyr (take a peek at Google Maps; they are waaaaaay the hell out there).
When I asked Misha, who lives in Odessa, Ukraine, what draws him to these isolated and sometimes closed communities, he told me that the city “is filled with visually pleasing images, graphic shadows, color, movement. But in terms of meaning, it is empty. The people in the frame [there] do not say something important, something that [leads to] higher thoughts.” The urban bustle, he continued, “is artificial, soulless and absurd” and that he would rather focus on “People and their authentic, meaningful existence,” which, he added, “is most evident in remote and inaccessible places.” And it’s true: Looking at his pictures, I feel like I can glimpse not only a different way of life but also a different inner world.
When I first saw Misha’s images, what struck me, even more than the sense of timelessness, was the noiselessness. I could almost hear the quiet. I mentioned that to Misha, and he said that when he looks for his moments, “It’s important to have a human being in the frame, even if he or she’s not actually there. It may be a landscape, but it’s someone’s environment. Or a deserted street that’s been trampled by human footsteps.”
Misha honed his eye by training in architecture and painting, as well as with stints in publishing, graphic design, and retouching—on top of all that, he studied theology for a few years—but he didn’t pick up a camera until he was 40. Today, he leads a group of documentary photographers (the non-profit @noga.photo), who are also worth a follow.
For the Camera Curious: “Two Nikon F3 workhorses”
The thing that I love about Misha Maslennikov’s pictures is that looking at them, really breathing them in, makes me feel like I’m in touch with something deep, something almost holy. There’s a quiet sense of spirituality in his frames—partly thanks to his choice of subject matter, partly due to his expert composition, partly a function of the purity of his approach—that is hard to find elsewhere. I’m a fan.