Enchanted Wanderer of Stavropol’s Steppe

The lonely figure roams the industrial landscapes of southern Russia, by Igor Palmin.

Near Arzgir in Stavropol Krai, 1977

Igor Palmin established himself as a recognized photographer after meeting sculptor Ernst Neizvestny and painter Oskar Rabin while documenting Moscow’s underground art life. He took photos of nonconformist poets and painters of the Lianozovo group, made portraits of Moscow conceptualist artists, and worked for major publishing houses and periodicals – including “Dekorativnoye Iskusstvo SSSR” (Decorative Arts USSR), the legendary magazine dedicated to theory, practice and the history of art and design. In later years he contributed greatly to the development of architectural photography, working to capture the unique monuments of Art Nouveau, Constructivist, Stalinist, and ancient Russian architecture.

But his oeuvre is not limited to chronicling past and present artistic accomplishments: Palmin often travels around the country and is always on the lookout for new subjects and themes, be it rural life in Chechnya and Central Asia or abandoned churches. The series “Enchanted Wanderer,” on the other hand, is less a documentation than a mythic imaginary story: a lone figure aimlessly roams the alien landscape of abandoned industrial wrecks with stray dogs as his only companions.

According to the photographer, the series was conceived and realized out of boredom: “The bleak Stavropol Steppe with its industrial plant, reminiscent of Antonioni’s “Red Desert” landscapes, became home to an archeological expedition. A small group of people, who called themselves “A Big Family,” passed the time and had fun in this expanse, riddled with incomprehensible ruins. Being an overage slacker myself, I was accepted into the fold and “Enchanted Wanderer” became a result of our alliance.”

The full series is featured on Palmin’s Flickr account alongside an extensive archive, covering several decades of artistic work.