Klavdij Sluban

Dewi Lewis, 2010

ISBN 978-1-904587-84-2 Hb


This book, which won the European Publishers’ Award for Photography last year, contains many striking individual black-and-white photographs, yet taken as a whole they make a troubling collection. They were made across the vast geographical zone from Eastern Europe to the Far East, many on the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Implicit in this idea of a journey is the notion of discovery, of comparison between two areas we in the West think of as the East, and an analysis of what ‘East’ means.

            Yet almost all the pictures look the same: wintry, nocturnal and oppressive, with looming black shapes and details obscured. Many are made at a remove, through train windows or some other smudged, dirty screen, which increases the sense of alienation – or rather, the photographer’s alienation. We learn little about the East.

            Beyond the photographic style, little connects the images. Here is a man on a bicycle, here is a view across water, here is a girl in a bakery. Some pictures are blurred, some sharp. Amongst the darkness, occasionally we see something else: a stand of four young trees, or a beautiful face in a mirrored surface. Why such images appear randomly, as they do, is as much a mystery as the rest of the book.