Author(s): Leah Bendavid-Val
The word "Siberia" brings to mind a series of extremes - vast, bleak, harsh, alluring, wild, and beautiful. Our imagined notion of this largely unknown territory is so strong that the name itself has become a metaphor for things remote or undesirable. The reality, however, is that Siberia surpasses any singular idea. Not only does it span numerous time zones and feature enormously varied geography, but its inhabitants range from nomads herding reindeer and shamans communing with spirits to scientists in state-of-the-art laboratories and urbanites proud of their boutiques, museums, and opera houses. Spanning more than 130 years, this collection of images by more than fifty Russian photographers conveys as never before Siberia's enormity and diversity while bringing the region into concrete, human focus. It draws from the collections of Russian museums as well as the archives of established and emerging photographers. Leah Bendavid-Val's compelling commentary tells the stories behind the pictures and places them in historical and artistic context, quoting observations and memories of Siberia by explorers, settlers, and literary giants from Dostoevsky to Chekhov. As attested by the ever-growing number of books, news reports, and travelers to the region, Siberia is an enduring subject of fascination to many. This beautiful volume is at once a groundbreaking photographic event and a sublime introduction to one of earth's most intriguing places.
Leah Bendavid-Val has worked with Russian photography for more than two decades. She is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Kennan Institute), Washington DC. The former director of photography publishing for National Geographic Books, she is the author of National Geographic: The Photographs; the coauthor and editor of the best-selling National Geographic Image Collection; and the author most recently of Song without Words: The Photographs and Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy.