Grasping the Beyond

Early-morning birds chirping outside and lilac orchids blooming on the balcony, I'm at a family member's home in Moscow surrounded by hundred+-year-old paintings and icons along with a multitude of old photographs. Somber faces in the latter not only reveal the technical aspects of 19th- and early 20th-century portraiture, but also its aesthetic conventions.

There is a powerful impulse in these images that is oriented toward the Eternal, the Infinite, the Beyond in contrast to contemporary here-and-now artificially smiling counterparts (and it spans past the difficulty of maintaining a smile during slightly longer exposure times in photography from that era). In this sense, today's trend of making pictures "look old" and, therefore, "cool" underscores the simulacral nature of "INSTA(!)gramming" Postmodernity.

The photographs of my ancestors below had been taken throughout the European part of the Russian Empire prior to World War I.  I have refrained from editing out the ink blots and other sings of time, because I think it gives them character as documents in one's personal--unairbrushed--history.