North Latitude. The Limit

North Latitude. The Limit
While working as a photographer on the set of the film Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, which was shot in the wide open spaces of the Kola Peninsula, in my spare time I watched the life and reality around me and tried to record the nature and the local atmosphere of everyday life.
We were in the vicinity of Murmansk for about four months. We filmed in the villages Teriberka, Lodeynoye, and Tumanny, as well as in the city of Kirovsk and on the shores of the Barents Sea. In all these parts I wanted to capture the incredible beauty of the northern nature in combination with people’s habitats in it. I was inspired by the vast expanses and the harsh climate, where everything connected with a human being is, as it were, built into this environment. The pictures do not show the locals themselves, but they include their houses, schools, hospitals, and factories, and this creates a feeling of their actual presence. But as soon as a shot emerged, people seemed to disappear, as if they had never been there. Some photographs from this separate project were included in the photo exhibition “Leviathan. The Process”, which was dedicated to the making of the film Leviathan and took place at the Solyanka State Gallery. Some of the pictures were purchased by private collectors, and another part of them was sold at the Action charity auction. Also, many works from “The Kola Peninsula” series illustrated a large research article about the film Leviathan in the journal Vestnik Evropy (Herald of Europe).
All photographs were taken with a Nikon F100 analog camera and Kodak 35 mm film.

Critical essay. Julia Spiridonova.
Anna Matveeva’s project “The Kola Peninsula” is an anthropological study of the Russian North. The film camera captured the journey of the photographer (and with her, the viewer) through the dilapidated, crumbling, and almost abandoned cities through the permafrost and fog of the Murmansk region. Views of cities (or rather, settlements) of the region alternate in Matveeva’s series with minimalistic tundra landscapes.
The urban landscapes in the photographs of Anna Matveeva are almost always deserted. We see settlements that look as if all life has left them: dilapidated, rickety schools and houses. Not a single human figure, only a subtle hint at the presence of people, at some everyday life: an old Volga car, rusty sledges, a drowned barge, a relatively new payphone on a relatively ancient structure. With this presentation of her material, the author guides us to reflect on the contemporary social agenda. These man-made objects turn into rudiments of the human and national past, become symbols of decline and extinction. Anna reflects on the present, showing us the ruins of cultural heritage.
In Matveeva’s photographs we see the fishing villages of Teriberka, Lodeynoye, the village of Tumanny, and the city of Kirovsk. In fact, for example, about a thousand people currently live in Teriberka, and as many as 26 thousand people live in Kirovsk. But where are they? In recent decades, the population in these places has fallen significantly for various reasons, mainly due to the suspension of production. 
The outflow of people has amounted to almost one third of their total number. A small part of the residents stuck there leads a meager existence, often below the poverty line, and remains there out of hopelessness. Anna captures this steady moment of decay, the duration of which stretches unbearably long. It is this duration and the endlessness of time that are present in Matveeva’s photographs as a heavy load.
Picturesque, but cold and melancholy landscapes give the viewer a sense of distance between the villages. Here we see icy soil, stones partially covered with snow, lonely birds, and the sea beating on the rocks. This alternation sets an amazing rhythm, it sets the settlements apart and thereby adds space and air to the series of photographs and makes the villages even more lonely and abandoned.
All photographs in the project are united by “grayness”, which is present in them both on the physical and emotional levels. It feels like the photos were taken on one endless day, on a long polar night. “The evil twilight of an undying day.” There are simply no shadows in the photographs, as if the houses and rocks themselves are turning into their own shadows.