March 13, 1997
William Brumfield to Speak on "Lost Russia:
Photographing the Ruins of Russian Architecture"
Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University
William Brumfield will talk at Middlebury College on "Lost
Russia: Photographing the Ruins of Russian Architecture"
on Monday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in 304 Johnson on campus.
Professor Brumfield has spent two decades traveling
in Russia to photograph many of the neglected buildings, especially
wooden churches. Many of these magnificent churches sit outside
the bustling industrial cities of modern-day Russia, large ones
and small ones, churches that no longer collect much notice from
locals, or tourists for that matter. These abandoned edifices,
majestic in their heyday, now bear silent witness to the neglect
and abuse they have suffered throughout a century of turmoil,
war and cultural obliteration. Professor Brumfield has taken on
the task of preserving, at least on paper, this magnificent architectural
Brumfield became fascinated with Russian architecture,
particularly church buildings, while traveling extensively in
the country in the 1970s and '80s as a graduate student and research
scholar. He was struck by the lack of Western scholarship of Russian
architecture, although his extensive study of Russian history
and literature in graduate school had given him a sense of cultural
heritage that helped direct his knowledge of what should be photographed.
Sadly, many of the architectural masterpieces he sought were damaged
during World War II, targeted by the Communist regime, or just
left alone for time to take its toll. "The photographer can
only work with what time has left and, over the past quarter of
a century, I have recorded much of the remaining legacy of Russian
architecture," Professor Brumfield said.
A new world was opened in the early 1990s when the
Communist government collapsed and Brumfield was granted open
access to the Russian countryside. "I was able to witness
a landscape that had for me acquired the aura and remoteness of
legend," Brumfield said. "The silence of the Russian
countryside creates a still moment in which the photographer can
capture the nobility and pathos of an abandoned church or estate
house. Even on the verge of ruin, they retain their monumentality
with striking effect."
Professor Brumfield's lavishly illustrated book,
A History of Russian Architecture, received high praise
in The New York Times Book Review.
The public is cordially invited to attend the talk.