Locked to the rails, hurtling through – looking, searching for them, but they’re not here, or at least not anymore.
The landscape engulfs us. I am swallowed by it. I cannot spread my arms and embrace the open air for it slices to the bone. This is not the grand, all-promising landscapes of the west – this is the snow covered concrete block, the searing cold iron rails, the thick black radiating nights of Siberia. It promises nothing but demise.
The faint glow of the moon illuminates the grain that fills the emptiness, the soft clicking of a Geiger counter creeping in to fill the sonic emptiness. Our movements are not free, though constant and relentless – restless. Restlessly searching we find little more than absence in the stark white lights, absence in the thick black shadows, expanses of nothing and details of an emptiness that confirms only our own perception. The indexes of human existence are fading, as are the individuals and their identities. Faces blur to nothing, as though censored from view, coats so sheer black appear like melting celluloid in a malfunctioning projector – yet the frames continue to speed past.
I am lost and cold but I am not removed. The dichotomy between the train’s position within and the removal of its occupants from the landscape translated perfectly into the pages of a book that affords us a glance toward but not within a modern-day demographic catastrophe.
Le Désert Russe can be purchased here.
Ollie Gapper graduated from UCA Rochester in 2014 with a degree in Photography (Contemporary Practice). He is currently studying an MA in Photography with a long-term focus on photobooks and the American landscape.