The Land that sleeps, a tale about Siberia by Matteo Buonomo

You can say that the biography on Matteo Buonomo‘s website is as interesting as his photographs: it involves you emotionally without being maudlin, it captures you, it shows you his humanity in all his complexity and expresses the inner need that leads him to produce images:

“Taking photographs is an opportunity to live a life that wasn’t supposed to be mine in places that weren’t supposed to be mine”.

Matteo empathizes with his subjects, camouflages himself, tries to live other’s life to be able to capture fragments, moments. The Land that sleeps is an intense work, which tells the story of Siberia with its bittersweet poetics, made of faces, places and sensations.

I knew that Siberia meant “The land that sleeps”. This is all I knew. But it was all I needed to know to decide to go“.

He is accompanied by a book, Peasants and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov, a writer who is able to photograph Russia through its pages. This is the starting point of Matteo’s journey, who feels attracted to this country that challenges human survival with some of the most inhospitable living conditions, becoming much more than a place, but a real “season of the soul”.

“Those pages could have been the caption of the situations I was living. They held the essence of what I was seeing and of the spirit of the people I was meeting”.

The Land that sleeps, la Siberia di Matteo Buonomo | Collater.al

[…] it does matter that all these Annas, Mavras, Pelagueyas, from dawn to sunset should be grinding away, ill from overwork, all their lives worried about their starving sickly children; all their lives they are afraid of death and disease, and have to be looking after themselves; they fade in youth, grow old very early, and die in filth and dirt; their children as they grow up go the same way and hundreds of years slip by and millions of people live worse than animals, in constant dread of never having a crust to eat; but the horror of their position is that they have no time to think of their souls, no time to remember that they are made in the likeness of God; hunger, cold, animal fear, incessant work, like drifts of snow block all the ways to spiritual activity, to the very thing that distinguishes man from the animals, and is the only thing indeed that makes life worth living. […]

“I travelled by train, on foot, hitch-hiking without planning anything, trying to be as instinctive as possible. I allowed my sensations and my fears to drive me up to remote and forgotten villages. So, at some point, I realized that the direction did not even matter anymore”.

“I walked, and when I saw a lineament, a scar, a tattoo or a certain fatigue that transpired a story that scared or interested me then I went closer and asked a place to stay for the night with a note with few words written in Russian”.

“In this way I found myself to share intimacy with those people, to feel part of those families. I often found myself, drunk with vodka to fall asleep staring at a wooden ceiling”.

The Land that sleeps, la Siberia di Matteo Buonomo | Collater.al

The choice of black and white is not dictated by chance, but is part of artist’s visual narration, who shoots on film: the monochrome highlights the “drama” of the scenes and pushes the viewer to focus first on the subjects and, later, on the surrounding environment. The harsh reality of Siberia is tackled in a “soft” way, where only those who really focus on the images can grasp its hidden meanings, discovering the great humanity of this seemingly hostile country.

The Land that sleeps, la Siberia di Matteo Buonomo | Collater.al
The Land that sleeps, la Siberia di Matteo Buonomo | Collater.al

Visit Matteo’s website here and explore his work.

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