An Anthill of Loneliness

Photographer Petr Barabaka finds unexpected asylum in the town of Odintsovo.

Hoping to discover a Russian Shanghai within the Moscow region, Petr Barabaka traveled to the town of Odintsovo. There he found a bizarre desolation, which inspired this series of photographs.

I've been visiting Odinstovo frequently over the last several years. The Moscow region town is a 30-minute train ride from the Belorussky terminal. I was surprised to discover that population density in Odintsovo is twice that of Shanghai. This Wikipedia fact contradicts the photographs I took.

While shooting, I aimed to capture the impression of a human anthill, which I had thought likely to emerge there. But my best works from the Odintsovo series were desolate, even surreal – so far as the medium of documentary photography allowed this alienation.

The town in my pictures was filled with loneliness. Sometimes it even seemed I was imprisoned by the toponym – the distinct root “odin” (Russian for “one,” “alone,” “single”), announced on the train every time I was approaching Odintsovo, resonated in me as a promise of safe haven.

I was photographing grocery stores, deserted stretches of high-rise buildings, garages, strangers and other things I encountered during my daily wanderings. With no greenery to give the illusion of a populated city space, winter provides the necessary perspective to find new meanings in naked facades and layered urban textures.

Eventually, I grew to realize that Odinstovo provided yet another background for the themes I have cultivated over the years, themes which haunt me still: violence, alienation, disappointment, and solitude.