The Russians (Photographs)
Taking as his inspiration the early 20th Century work of Sergeii Prokudin-Gorskii, the Russian pioneer of colour photography, Hannah traveled to Russia in the summer of 2010 to begin recording small slivers of Russian life in videos and photographs. Having returned from this trip with hours of footage and hundreds of photographs, it took over a year to arrive at the final selection of moving and still images. This body of work exists somewhere between the candid documentary snapshots of Robert Frank, the highly staged images of Jeff Wall, and the mid 19th century parlour pastime of tableaux vivants. Somewhat less controlled than his previous videos, Hannah’s subjects pulse with life even as they try to remain still.
Eschewing elaborate sets in favour of unstaged encounters Hannah set off for Russia with only two cameras and a small accompaniment of lenses. Moving around by car, foot, and bicycle Hannah roamed around Saint Petersburg and the surrounding countryside, shooting exclusively with existing light and using as models the people he encountered on his travels. These models came from all walks of life, some approaching the photographer and some warily agreeing to pose when approached. With minimal intervention models were asked to stay as still as they could while the photos and videos were shot, but due to the blazing temperatures (it was Russia’s hottest summer on record) and the artist’s limited ability to communicate in Russian, the models’ gazes often wandered, their faces and bodies betraying the difficulty of holding their poses.
When Prokudin-Gorskii documented a rapidly changing country 100 years ago he often focused on infrastructure and technology, the trains and factories of the early 20th Century. Hannah, on the other hand, focuses on people he’s chanced upon on his travels, presenting fleeting but oddly intimate moments shared with strangers whose postures and subtle facial expressions offer a unique look at Russia at the beginning of the 21st century.
This project has been presented in the following exhibitions:
2011, Adad Hannah - The Russians, Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Montreal.