In Search of Islands
Moving from big cities to rural areas has become a reality for many.
One of the main reasons behind this move is the rethinking of values.
Many people have chosen to start a new life in the countryside, discovering volunteering, reviving national heritage and crafts, farming, working in greenhouses, and building eco-villages. They have their recipe to change the world; they try it out themselves; they look for new senses; they follow their dreams, and take small steps towards their goals. The river connects them all, like a mother taking them under her wing, like a road, a path to freedom. There is always a way out. People in big cities are eager for harmony, but very often the future is hidden behind the skyscrapers, the tires of cars driving by erasing the path. We can see the horizon here, says one of the characters. Counter urbanization, as a concept, is now widespread in many countries. In today's world, people can choose. They want to build their new world, and their search for their islands takes them to the Volga River.
The Volga River, the longest in Europe, is often referred to as Mother Volga. A central character in 'In Search of Islands' project is rendered through dreamy wide-format photos. I photograph along the Volga River because it is a central symbol of the Russian people, connected to many legends and the setting for great books, poems and paintings. I observe my characters leaving big cities and settling their new life along the Volga river. Those who are in search of their islands, a new life, are shown in square images.
Elena Naumova was born in Moscow. She had a successful career in the bank, travelling a lot across the country and abroad. Elena was on vacation along the Volga River when her car broke down not far from Uchma village. A man from the village, Vasily Smirnov, came to help her, and they ended up falling in love. They got married, and Elena moved to the Volga river.
Alexander Mozolevsky with his daughter and children from the nearest village have lunch in their new home by the Volga river, where he and his wife Olesya moved several years ago from Moscow.
Lyubov sings a lullaby to her son Lev before sleep. Lubov Vilyanskaya and her husband, Alexey, used to live in Moscow, working in a big headhunting company. Several years ago, they left the city and their well-paid jobs for a tiny house on Yurshinsky island on the Volga River.
Men help to bring bags from a boat after reaching the mainland from Yurshinsky island on the Volga river in stormy weather. Lubov Vilyanskaya and her husband, Alexey, left Moscow and settled there several years ago. The island was formed when the river was dammed for a hydroelectric station. In summer, the ferry travels twice a day to the island from the mainland. However, from autumn till spring, the navigation stops.
A black stallion, a gift to Olesya from her husband Alexander, was one of the reasons to relocate. Alexander Mozolevsky has built an open-air village museum, Olesya named it Tygydym, the Russian way of mimicking the sound of galloping horses. The couple has put all their dreams and ideas into the project, building a farm landscape, welcoming tourists, bringing knowledge and preserving history.
Several years ago, Mikhail Bazhan bought 15 hectares of undeveloped land by the Volga river. Mikhail, a lawyer, and his wife Valeria had their own home, car and a stable income, but they didn't enjoy their life. Mikhail resigned from his job in the city, sold everything he owned and started building a house on their new land, learning from YouTube tutorials.
After settling their life by the Volga river, Mikhail Bazhan builds a community of like-minded people. All of them want to live simple, ecologically sound lives and share their resources.
Lyubov Vilyanskaya and her son Lev returning home in the field on Yurshinsky Island. Lyubov and her husband, Alexey, moved there from Moscow several years ago. Since childhood, Alexey had dreamed of sailing and having more freedom. Now they have found their dream on the island. Lubov and Alexey believe that living closer to nature helps them to raise healthier and smarter children. However, they did not just want to return to nature. They are seeking a different quality of life, in which they follow their dreams, learn through their mistakes, and become even bigger optimists.
Roman with his children, Ramir and Mira are playing at home. Roman and his wife, Yulia, moved from Kazan to eco-village Lesnaya Polyana by the Volga river several years ago. While others flock to cities for better salaries and life, they did the opposite. Instead, they are looking to find things close to their hearts. They grow vegetables, make wooden toys, sew linen clothes and live the life they choose themselves.
Valeria Bazhan, and her friend Polina Kosenko picking up willow-herbs in the field. Valerya went after her husband Mikhail Bazhan, to live by the Volga river several years ago. Polina also shares her husband's ideas; she and Alexander live in the village nearby. Valeria and Polina help their husbands make natural cosmetics and herbal tea, which they sell online. They have also opened a small shop in the village and is now considering to start a hair salon.
Alexander is enjoying a rainbow after the rain. He and his wife, Polina, moved from Tver to the rural area by the Volga river several years ago.
Lenya and his friends joined the community of Mikhail and Alexander recently. All together they help each other to build their houses. They follow the American futurist Jacque Fresco principles of a resource-based economy.
Olesya and her husband Alexander Mozolevsky, middle-class lawyers from Moscow, moved to the Volga River several years ago. They were utterly fascinated by the people they met in the countryside, and how much knowledge they could share about Russian life in the past. Life has stood still for almost a century here. People can build houses as they did a hundred years ago, and they know a lot about crafts. Olesya and Alexander want to keep this knowledge-building an open-air museum by the Volga river.
Lyubov Vilyanskaya is returning home in the field on Yurshinskiy Island. One of her dreams is to start a lavender farm on the island. Rivers have existed before us and will go on after we die. Time passes like rivers flow by. Rivers teach us to go with the flow, to avoid obstacles, to be open to everything new. There is always a way out.