Leningrad, War & Time: Photo-Collaging Past & Present


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We all are used to seeing photographs of the built environment that are current as well as ones that are historical – but rarely to we see them so vividly juxtaposed, bringing home the reality contained within dusty and scratched black-and-white images from the past. These images capture critical moments from one the most incredible sieges in modern history and contrast them with the relative calm current state of the city.

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Sergei Larenkov went through archival images of St. Petersburg to find compelling images from the Siege of Leningrad from World War II – a critical period in the war and a devastating time for citizens in the city. Thousands froze to death and food supplies were so scarce people turned to wallpaper glue and leather boots as emergency sources of sustenance.

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On the one hand, there is no mistaking the transition from grainy black-and-white to contemporary color but, on the other hand, the scenes are so identically shot that the past seems to bleed into the present. Particularly powerful are the then-and-now photographic montages that show something being built and later completed, or that pair ordinary pedestrians from the present with struggling people of the past.

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More than merely a one-off art project, this photographic set shows the possibilities of telling history in new and different ways. Imagine if a database were developed to overlay images from all through history so we could witness the evolution of built environments over time. This may be only the beginning.

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