Summertime and the Living is [not] easy in Александровка
(July 2014 - January 2016)
In the West, a self-sustainable life style is almost unimaginable, but this is reality for many just like the Холодова family. Even today, the only items available in the village shop are bread, Vodka, sweets and meat. Vegetables such as beetroot, potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, cucumber, aubergines, carrots, onions, garlic, peppers, cabbage and pumpkins are home grown. The harvest is for immediate consumption and any excess is pickled to survive the harsh winters. A hole in the ground with a sturdy flap acts as a natural fridge in the summer and a sheltered place in the winter. An outdoor kitchen with dining area, the outdoor toilet, the two sleeping houses and land are a common layout. The Холодова family also have chickens and the eggs are swapped with milk from the neighbour’s cow.
Борщ is a traditional Russian stew and a family recipe. Beetroot is the main ingredient of this much-loved red dish. The broth is typically prepared by boiling meat on the bone for up to six hours. The meat is then removed and the bones discarded; the meat is added back in during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. Cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions and beetroots are boiled in the broth till tender. Борщ is eaten hot or cold, tastes sweet and sour and a dollop of crème fraiche makes it just right.
During my trip to Russia in July 2014, I took a series of photos on my Hasselblad shooting on 120mm black & white film. I developed the film by hand and printed on Fabriano Artistico using Liquid Light, which is a light sensitive solution that is applied onto the paper in a darkroom using a specialist paintbrush.
For the Cyanotypes, I produced digital negatives of the vegetables. Fabriano Artistico paper was coated with a Cyanotype solution consisting of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Citrate. I mix my own solution to control the intensity of the blue. Once coated in the darkroom, the paper is exposed to UV light and then washed. In addition, the beetroot Cyanotype was toned in real beetroot juice and the onions in onion peel juice.
The old photographs are a collection from Madelein'e grandmother’s photo album and show family and friends in rural Russia. For example, the woman with the plastic bag is a neighbour who heard the rumour that match sticks were available at the village store and decided to stock up for the winter. Or the group of women showing off their rich harvest after a day’s manual labour.
Александровка (Alexandrovka) – Russian village
Холодова (Holodova) – Family name
Борщ (Borshch) – Russian stew