Alexander Gronsky is a young Estonian photographer based in Latvia and doing a lot of his work in Russia.
Gronsky’s work focuses on the liminal spaces that humans inhabit. For his series The Edge he photographed in the border areas around the city of Moscow. In Less than One he photographed in areas in Russia with a population density of less than one person per square kilometer. Finally in the editorial story Border Stories he shot in the Russian-Chinese border areas where both cultures coalesce.
The series The Edge and Less than One work as opposite sides of the same idea. In the former there are areas filled with natural landscapes, with trees, snow and animals, while the urban presence lingers in the background. Where as in the latter there are cityscapes with high rises and cars and the natural presence in the background. The seemingly urban areas (as they are in fact the places with lower population density) long to be more rural, and the seemingly rural areas (that are in reality suburban) wish to be more urban.
Neither of these areas is portrayed in a positive light. Both of these areas look slightly desolate, old and in disrepair. The fact that many of the pictures are shot during the winter and/or overcast days adds to the feel that these places are desolated backwaters. In the end neither of these type of landscapes seem very appealing to inhabit but rather people have learned to accommodate to the conditions of the place they live in.
Visually, the way these opposing areas are incorporated into the frame is very interesting. Gronsky uses a lot of layering, with the foreground obviously being the area he is representing in the specific series–either the natural or the urban–and in the background the opposite type of area is shown. This kind of layering of space often flattens the image bringing both types of areas together and creating an interesting tension between them. However in many of the images there are strong barriers between the areas, e.g. large areas of snow, a line of trees, a gate or a row of buildings, that prevent the two areas from ever coming together, which in turn adds to the tension between them. Many of the pictures are also taken from a slightly elevated perspective (at least in relation to the foreground and sometimes above the background too), which adds to the flattening of the image. This flatness makes it seem that the background lies on top of the foreground thus creating a hierarchy between the two. Because of this I get the feeling that the more urban looking area wants to be more rural and the vice versa.
In the end it seems like neither of these areas is fully successful at what it tries to be, but rather they remain in a limbo of urban development. Having most of the negative aspects of both urban and rural living and, at least from the images, few of the benefits. While the beautiful snowed landscapes are marred by the high rises looming in the background, the urban areas feel outdated and isolated.