Picture Book of the Week: Short Stalks at Distant Shores - Imaging Post-Soviet Space

Documenting decay in the former Eastern Bloc.

This image is taken from Christoph Grill’s Short Stalks at Distant Shores: Imaging Post-Soviet Space (Hatje Cantz, £55). In 1999, Grill, an Austrian photographer, began a project that would end up lasting more than a decade. He visited the successor states of the Soviet Union, photographing the remaining traces of the USSR. Grill took pictures in the Russian Far East, in central Asia and in the Baltic states.

As Ulf Brunnbauer notes in his introduction, the pictures depict “a vast expanse permeated by emptiness and decay”. 

 

[Sample pages via Hatje Cantz]

Vacation settlement, Primorsky Krai, Russia (2010). Photo by Christoph Grill.
John Waterman/Fox Photos/Getty Images
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“Driving Through the Pit Town”: a poem by Rory Waterman

Then – surprise – a pale sun picks at a slit / in the paper sky.”

There’s not much round here now, you say,
just huddled brick or pebbledash terraces,
and tiny new-builds where the pitheads were
.

Bare hills fly up beyond the town you left,
with clasps of scree, caps of sodden green,
pitched above the neat slate pitches

but your eyes stay on the road. The side streets jut
left and right, so many of them, like ribs.
You jab a finger: We lived up top of that one.

Then – surprise – a pale sun picks at a slit
in the paper sky. Yellow slaps down
momently, and slides along the valley,

and the half-a-pit-wheel trenched in the roundabout
shimmers, red as gut. We won’t stop here
and most of the shops (Kebabland, USA Nail’s,

Milan Fashions) are shut or boarded anyway.
The four lads pincering fags outside the Co-op,
gobbing and shoving, repulse for what they are.

It’s no use knowing better, more, you say.
And in blue spray paint, the back of the village sign
cries “DING DONG!!”. Like we’re waiting at a door.

 

Rory Waterman lives in Nottingham. His debut collection, Tonight the Summer’s Over, is a PBS Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism