Masha Svyatogor‘s photographs from ‘Once Upon A Time In The Kingdom Of Far Away’ take us back into her childhood, a walk through her past; it’s memories and remnants of broken dreams. Like all of us the past is a dream in which Svyatogor sometimes goes, sees with eyes that were once full of innocence and joy, however, in these pictures she faces up to the reality of its demise, the fact that everything is transient, passes with time, leaves the husk of what once was behind to rot, decay and return to the earth from whence it came.
Photography has been a release for Svyatogo. The lens opening her eyes, teaching her how to think, ask questions and most importantly giving her the space to re-examine her past in Belarus, a country that was once part of the USSR and is now, like many former satellite countries of the former Soviet Union, undergoing great change in a brave new world.
This is a personal journey through history, each image part of a grand narrative distilled into a personal exploration of a past that is unrecognisable from its present. There is much melancholy and thoughtful reflection in each photograph, all of which resonates, sends ripples from what was to what is. It is the story of humankind, of what it means to grow up, leave home and find a new life on the foreign shores of the future. Here’s what Svyatogor has to say about her project:
I referred to the places where I had spent my childhood, where my house used to be, seeming so strong and eternal, invulnerable and windproof, but where now only a feeling is left.
This series is a return, a memory of what is close and important to me. Childhood, earth, roots, a man missing in these photos, who used to live in this small town and died long ago, whose presence you strongly feel, even though you saw him only once — briefly, with the corner of your eye, with only one half.
This is the story of my kingdom, about the time I used to have, about my little and my only homeland, about my joy, about the place, which grew together with me and where in the material world only horns and legs were left.
We got used to having our «nest» ruined, we mastered a new space, changed our household, adapted to a new life and forgot about heaven. People who shared our life styles are gone, homes were sold, and those who survived were overgrown with grass. A garden once flourishing got populated with frogs and reptiles. The rooms are littered with smoldering debris, but still sometimes let the dusty light in.
So, on Christmas Day I got on a bus and went to the place where my great-grandfather had been living for long.
There was no snow yet, the frosted grass mixed trash was glistening in the sun. It was windy and warm, I was completely alone on that island. I was standing on a bench at the beach and looking at the frozen blue water and the earth`s wool. I could go either way. I seemed to be happily greeted and welcomed by anyone.
I was following the route, which was running into my past. At first, I could recognize very little, I was walking with my eyes closed, rediscovering this earth, and then I began to recall it gradually and slowly, I felt and experienced everything as it for the first time. I seemed to come back home after a long absence from some imprisonment or pilgrimage that took me half of my life, from oblivion I returned to the house of the soul, with which I had been divided by circumstances, time and so on.
Those things which I managed to reconstruct in my memory looked like an infinitely long film footage without any plot of ending – about a dream of a fragile and transparent world.
What I managed to shoot was gradually overgrown by elusive traces of human presence, the remains of the things, an abandoned habitat, a place on earth where I felt well and where I come back from time to time.