Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

Cartier-Bresson’s wooden church photograph – 1970s

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Washerwomen by the river Kamenka, Suzdal – early 1970s

This photograph has been scanned from my copy  of  Henri Cartier–Bresson’s book ‘About Russia’ published by Thames and Hudson in London in August 1974 and no doubt bought by me in London in August 1974. £6.50 when £6.50 was £6.50. Cartier-Bresson made three trips to the Soviet Union, his book, published in 1955 in England as ‘The People of Moscow’ was the  result of his first trip in 1954, the trips in 1972 and 1973 resulted in ‘About Russia’.

Last week I bought a pristine copy of ‘Mosca’ the Italian edition of ’The People of Moscow’ in the wonderful bookshop Hoepli in Milan. They had several copies, no doubt they had recently been discovered in a box at the back of a cupboard. ‘Mosca’ cost me 100 euros – £4.25 in old money (1955) so not a bad price. That got me looking at my Cartier-Bresson books on my return and ‘About Russia, turned up this photo of a wooden church. I’m pleased to say that it still exists. It is the Church of St Nicholas (1766) from the village of Glotovo. It was transferred to Suzdal in 1960.

Last copy of ‘Wooden Churches’ flies to São Paulo

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Today I posted the last copy of ‘Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North’ to Rua Vergueiro, São Paulo, Brazil.

Russian Types & Scenes ~ published 1st October 2014

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014


‘My chief hope for this book is that it may help to make others think of Russia, not as an abstraction, not as a unit, but as a very large number of very interesting human beings, most of them lovable.’ – In a Russian Village Charles Roden Buxton, Labour Publishing Company, London 1922

Russian Types & Scenes is a companion volume to Wooden Churches – Travelling in the Russian North. Photographing the churches was exciting and exhilarating but it was also frustrating. My camera was attached to a tripod. I faithfully gave my attention to the tripod and its camera, adjusting the position, the level, the height, the framing, the focus, the shutter speed and the aperture while brushing away snow, rain and mosquitoes from the lens. I knew that if I was to move away for a moment the sun would burst through the clouds; a dog, a cow, a horse or a wonderfully exotic Russian would hove into frame. Meanwhile all around me extraordinary everyday things were happening…

I did take some photographs away from the tripod but our schedule was tight and there was little time to loiter – a prerequisite for reportage photography. The majority of the photographs in this book have been taken since the publication of Wooden Churches. I’ve continued to travel to the Russian North with friends, journalists, restorers, students and film makers.

On most of these trips I’ve left my tripod at home or at best kept it deep in my luggage, to be called upon to photograph a church I haven’t photographed before. I now travel with a light handheld camera. The schedules have been slightly less demanding, although no less adventurous, but more importantly with less to carry and to take care of, there has been more time and energy to loiter.

Russian Types was the generic title the St Petersburg photographer William Carrick (1827-78) gave to the photographs he took of tradespeople, peasants, priests and officials in his studio and later to the scenes of Russian life taken in the ‘field’. This genre became very popular and was taken up by many photographers, artists and postcard publishers well into the 20th century.

A story from Solzhenitsyn explaining the shortcomings of colour photography follows in lieu of an introduction.

Richard Davies, London, June 2014


Along side the photographs there are texts by the Moscow architectural historian Alexander Mozhaev, together with the insights of writers, artists, and poets.

The first bread!

Tell me, who of you has never enjoyed eating a slice of bread from the new harvest?

How nicely it smells. It’s a smell of the sun, of fresh straw, and most importantly, of the combine driver’s hands soaked in kerosene.

Five Romances on Words from Krokodil Magazine, № 24, August 30th, 1965, opus 121 Dmitri Shostakovitch (1906-1975) first performed Leningrad, 28th May 1966

It’s hard to say something about Pushkin to a person who doesn’t know anything about him. Pushkin is a great poet. Napoleon is not as great as Pushkin. Bismark compared to Pushkin is a nobody. And the Alexanders, First, Second and Third, are just little kids compared to Pushkin. In fact, compared to Pushkin, all people are little kids, except Gogol. Compared to him, Pushkin is a little kid…

Today I Wrote Nothing ~ The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms (1905-1942), translated by Eugene Ostashevsky, Ardis, New York 2009

Turn Up for the Books

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Dedicated Babushka

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Dear Mr. Davies,

I did want to take the liberty of sharing this with you, so that this wonderful lady’s memory might be fixed somewhere more permanently than my mind alone.

Perhaps you can add this to your data base, or post it on your blog.

Your photographs of the Church of St. John on the Ishnya River, near Rostov (pp. 234-35) brought it to mind.

In the summer of 1976, a group of us, four American college students, and our Intourist driver/guide, were traveling around the Golden Ring.

While in Rostov, we, of course, went to see the Church of St. John on the Ishnya.

At that time the care-taker was named Nadezhda Constantinovna (we did not learn her surname).

She it is who appears in this photograph which I took in front of the church. She lived there in the village.

She was an amazing lady, totally dedicated to caring for ‘her’ church. She told us that she and her husband had been married in it many years before.

Nadezhda Constantinovna kept it spotless — the polished floors and woodwork shone like golden honey.

It was a dry, summer day, and we only entered the church for a short time, but immediately she got out her cleaning rags and started to polish the floor behind us.

Then I did something a bit daring for a foreigner in those days. Being a ‘country boy’ I was very intrigued to see what the inside of an occupied izba looked like (not the peasant ones in the museums).

Nadezhda Constantinovna was a bit reluctant, but eventually we prevailed upon her hospitality, and she let us in.

It was a very pleasant visit. I have the warmest memories of that day.

Thirty years later, in 2006, we were once again in Rostov with a group of Orthodox Christian pilgrims. I gave a copy of this photograph to the guide staff there, and they all remembered Nadezhda Constantinovna most fondly. They promised to give the photograph to her relatives.

It is thanks to those dedicated babushkas like Nadezhda Constantinovna that we still have such wooden treasures.

Fr. Nicholas

Holy Transfiguration Monastery

Boston USA

PS: In the upper, right-hand corner of the photo, the tablet marking the church as an historical monument can just be seen.

Country Life – 29th February 2012 – Averil King

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

*click on image to enlarge

The Times – 31st March 2012 – Marcus Binney

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

*click on image to enlarge

Open Democracy – 30th March 2012 – The tragedy of Russia’s abandoned wooden churches – Alexander Mozhayev

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Church of St Nicholas (1727), Ratonavolok, Archangel region, 27th February 2006

‘The Russian mentality has developed to understand “old” as something that is out of date… Some years ago, the abbot of a monastery was asked why he had knocked down the porch of his 300-year-old church, and he replied as honestly as he could: “Because it was old!”’


Indifference – Равнодушие

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

The Final Hour

In the Afterword to the recently published book ‘Wooden Churches’ Mikhail Milchik writes about the state of wooden architecture in Russia – he gives many reasons for its demise then says ‘finally, and possibly the most important reason, is the almost total indifference towards the fate of the national cultural heritage, that reigns in Russian society, from top to bottom.’

Looking through a book of Russian Revolutionary posters I came across a wonderful image by Viktor Deni from 1920 which I asked my friend Peter Brookes, the political cartoonist on The Times newspaper to reinterpret.

In Deni’s image the victim is Capitalism, the hour hand threat is Communism - Capitalism has they say survived for the moment. In Peter’s cartoon the victim is wooden architecture, the threat indifference. Let us hope that the message of Peter’s cartoon will be as wrong as Deni’s and that we will not be the last generation to experience these unique buildings as Mikhail has dolefully predicted….

The Voice of Russia – radio interview

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Russian BookWorld – 11th March 2012

((( >  < )))


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