The PhotoBook Journal

December 6, 2018

Ekaterina Vasilyeva – Shipwrecked

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Ekaterina VasilyevaShipwrecked, Copyright 2018

Artist; Ekaterina Vasilyeva (Екатерина Васильева)(born and residing in St. Petersburg, Russia)

Self-published, St Petersburg, Russia

Afterword: Ekaterina Vasilyeva

Text: English

Stiff cover front with original archive photograph (First #1-30 book covers), board back-cover book, twine sewn binding, four-color lithography, Limited edition, hand-made, signed & numbered, of 50, size: 12 cm x 33 cm, printed in St. Petersburg, RU

Photobook designer: Ekaterina Vasilyeva

Notes: This extremely wide (13 inch) book with the rough twine binding hints at the subject of Ekaterina Vasilyeva’s artist book; a mash of mid-century black and white photographs by an unknown young Sea Scout in conjunction with Vasilyeva’s reinterpretation of a similar current landscape in color. Likewise, her book title, Shipwrecked,provides additional clues to this boat-load of images that were once a drift and now found. The vernacular photographs of the 1940’s and 1950’s are literally intertwined with Vasilyeva’s color landscapes.

This is a wonderful treatise about the bittersweet aspect of nostalgia, the double-edge sword of memory. This forgotten album is filled with images of playful youth; boys who are seemingly unencumbered by the realities of life, although we know that in the early 1940’s there was a terrible war occurring that had a huge impact on the UK. Nevertheless, we observe these photographs knowing that their age of youth has now long passed and the subjects of this archive are perhaps more concerned with their pending mortality.

Who was this young unknown photographer, whose images reveal a certain maturity in these carefully balanced compositions? Perhaps this found British archive is not elevated to the level of photographs by Vivian Maier, nevertheless under the careful editing of Vasilyeva, we can sense this young photographer’s developing photographic skills.

Likewise, I come to wonder how this photographic archive came to rest at a British flea-market; what has happened to this now aging Sea Scout that he was willing to part ways with his past? Why does he or his family no longer have a need to retain this wonderful archive of memories? This book is a collection of mysteries; is the portrait of a young lady a family member of the unknown photographer or perhaps his lover in later years and maybe eventually his spouse? There are clues to this mysterious photographer, such as the school badges on the coats of the young men mugging for this photographer, as to where these events may have occurred so many years ago.

Vasilyeva’s contemporary landscape photographs ground us to the current reality and in juxtaposition with the archive images creates a messy give and take dialog with the past. The vexing and unanswerable question remains; Will you Forget Us? What of this group of boys, who are now aging men who may be grandfathers if not great grandfathers, what has become their fate and stories since their young likenesses was permanently captured?

I find a book design’s that echoes the artistic intent to really amplify the narrative; in this case the rough twine binding is similar in nature to what one might expect a young Sea Scout in the early 1940’s to use if he were to create his photobook. We observe similar hand-made contraptions such as the float lashed together using old oil cans that are utilized for a sea and river adventures. This is a British equivalent to Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a story of American youth, which was actually first published in the UK in 1884 before coming to the US in 1885. In reflection, perhaps Huckleberry Finn was an inspiration for Robert Baden- Powell, the founder of Scouting, who in turn inspired the unknown Sea Scout whose delightful photographs we enjoy here.

A very enjoyable read.

Cheers, Doug

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