“Gora” project. In The Dreamers collection.


“A man dies, a forest is cut down, a river runs low, and the caves you visited in childhood become whelmed: the things I shoot soon often change or disappear,” says photographer Ilya Batrakov. His mesmerising photographs of seemingly unassuming landscapes in the Moscow region document the place where he grew up.

Russia is a land of rivers. Originally, people would settle on the hills along the riverbanks and would come to consider this land as sacred. Those who grew up by the Iskona River in the Moscow region, like Batrakov, would come to see Gora Hill as a point of pilgrimage. “Here, people bring their dreams, hopes, and fears before leaving to return to their village,” he explains.

Batrakov first saw Gora when he was six. His family was looking for a place to move from Moscow. After hours of driving, they finally found themselves in a small village, some 100 kilometres away from the capital. “Tired and exhausted, I jumped out of the car, looked around, and noticed that the road in front of us seemed to end abruptly. I decided to check what laid beyond. I stopped at an abyss overlooking the river valley under a blanket of fog, with a forest that stretched across the horizon,” he said.

For Batrakov, the view became a view of quintessential Russia. “It’s hard to explain, but for some reason, this landscape and its ubiquity serves as a certain tower of strength in my darkest hours,” he shares. His series, Gora, evokes that serenity and the reassuring sense of direction it provides among the gentle eddies of time: from the thundering clouds of May to the white silence of December.

In The Dreamers collection.

About the Artist

Ilya Batrakov (b. 1985) took up photography towards the end of his studies at the Moscow University of Geodesy and Cartography. It all started with pictures of skateboarders, animals, and idyllic landscapes, and then, the growing passion for photography resulted in studies at the Rodchenko School, a residence at the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts, group and solo exhibitions in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Paris, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, and Riga. Today, the artist's works can be found at the Moscow Multimedia Art Museum, the Düsseldorf Museum “Kunst im Tunnel”, and private collections.

About the “Morok” project: “Since childhood, when I’m sick, I see war in my dreams, and fragments of reality are woven into these dreams, full of anxiety and chaos. In those dreams, there are two recurring elements. First, my father and I defend a small plot of land, and our weapons stop working. Second, the familiar space transforms into an alien, scorched, mangled land covered with trash, all the traces of the past erased from its surface. The project started the moment I saw forest rangers’ marks on trees in the forest where I grew up and with which I developed a special connection through my mother. The trees were to be cut, and I decided to capture the forest with my camera. 15 years later, almost nothing has remained of the forest. They started cutting it down to clear a power line. Later on, they kept doing it to fight the bark beetle. And then, the wind came and knocked down what had been thoughtlessly exposed by man. “Morok” is an attempt to put together materials capturing places that are meaningful to me before they vanish.”
Print Name: “Gora” project. In The Dreamers collection.
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