INTERVIEW // On the edge: how Alexander Gronsky explores the limits of photography

by Liza Premiyak

Pashvino V, Suburbs of Moscow, Russia (2012) from the series Pastoral by Alexander Gronsky

Landscape photographer Alexander Gronsky was born in Estonia in 1980 and is now based in Latvia, but has spent a large part of his career living and working in Russia. For four years, Gronsky captured the outskirts of Moscow, where the city meets the wild, and where many Muscovites go swimming, sunbathing or camping. He has also travelled to Norilsk, documenting its industrial wastelands, and further afield to China.

Gronsky is a self-taught photographer and shoots on film. Two of his projects, Pastoral and Reconstruction, are currently on display at The Wapping Project Bankside in London until 29 May. One of the pleasures of seeing his series side by side is that you can trace his development as an artist. But there are similarities between the two in that they were both shot in the suburbs. Whether its Russian edgelands or riverbanks in China, the edge is a recurring theme in his work (and the title of one of his earliest projects). As he expands the scope of his practice, The Calvert Journal caught up with him about his evolving career.

Reconstruction, a recent series on historic battle re-enactments, includes figures such as performers and viewers. Is this a move away from traditional landscape photography as seen in Pastoral?

For me [Pastoral] wasn’t about landscape photography. It was more that the landscapes I had encountered I wanted to execute in a very academic way. I don’t think I ever wanted to put myself in as precise a framework as landscape photography. I’m still referenced as an Estonian photographer even though I haven’t lived in Estonia for 20 years! My process is very intuitive: I’m interested in the photographic image in general, and it’s important for me to question its forms. For Reconstruction I was interested in historical panoramas. There are museums where you can see a panorama of a particular battle presented as a 360-degree landscape with objects in the foreground. I was trying to achieve this totality of landscape.