“A Dacha State of Mind” by Evgeny Makarov
“Dacha” is one of those russian words, such as “sputnik” and “perestroyka”, which became untranslated internationally used. What is actually a dacha? Commonly it would mean a quite small summer house with a modest garden somewhere out of the city. The dacha season lasts basically from May to September, because regularly houses are not heated and it’s also a time, when one can plant vegetables, flowers and herbs in the garden and children have three months of summer holidays at school.
Evgeny Makarov presented his photographic essay “A Dacha State Of Mind” at the LUMIX Festival for Young Photojournalism in June 2016. OSTLOOK met him in Hannover and asked a few questions about his series and his personal connection to dacha.
OSTLOOK: Evgeny, what is so inspiring for you about the dacha theme and how that interest turned into a project?
Evgeny Makarov: I was born in Saint-Petersburg. My family had a dacha, where I’ve been living every summer even after 1992, when we moved to Germany. The dacha was incredibly important in a social and cultural way. I grew up at dacha, just like most of my friends and acquaintances did. Though the houses looked rather as tiny huts, we’d always been waiting for the end of a school year to leave the city and finally be there again.
It’s a long time since I’ve been playing around this idea – to find out, what actually happened to dacha of my childhood. At some point the time has come to work on it. The series was photographed exactly at that domain, where our dacha used to be. When I became older I’ve lost any connection to it. And now I came back to the familiar place, but observed it from a totally new perspective, as I’ve never seen it as a grown-up before. On one hand, I was full of touching nostalgic memories, on the other hand, I had so much new to notice. The intention was to research, how does the “little wonder” of dacha work and to express this experience photographically.
OSTLOOK: So what were your impressions after meeting your past scene?
Evgeny Makarov: It was absolutely positive. But I had to admit, that dacha is not a material appearance. So I gave the series a title “A Dacha State of Mind”. It is all about the spirit. People hide at their dachas, immersing themselves in this spirit.
OSTLOOK: How old is a dacha phenomenon and which function it had and still has for the society?
Evgeny Makarov: Dacha appeared at the end of XVIIIth century as an aristocratic privilege. Later it became more common. During the Soviet era it transformed into the private space, something rare for the people in the totalitarian state. Many writers, poets, artists had been gathering there to talk openly in a narrow circle, to exchange ideas and discuss informally things, not accepted in the official discourse.
OSTLOOK: How do people spend their time at dacha? What do they do? Which activities do they prefer?
Evgeny Makarov: People are relaxing by working outside. Many elder people are glad to be busy. For example, one of my protagonists Nikolai, who’s built his house with his own hands. He is wondering, what he’d been doing, if staying in the city in his spare time. “Just watching TV all day long?”, – he says, – “I’d been bored to death! I’d rather be here and always have something to do”.
OSTLOOK: Retired russians and children move to dachas for the whole summer. Those who work, spend at dachas their weekends and summer vacations. Is dacha life limited by only summertime?
Evgeny Makarov: Generally, yes. But there are always people who enjoy it also in winter. Then they work in the city and come along for a weekend.
OSTLOOK: Is there any difference between dacha domains and a typical russian village?
Evgeny Makarov: The difference is quite fundamental. Village has its social structure, infrastructure, hierarchy, which resembles a lot the city weave, but presented in a smaller scale. Datcha is neither a city, nor a village.
OSTLOOK: Do you have a dacha in Germany?
Evgeny Makarov: I don’t. And I believe, it’s not really possible to get it authentic here, with its certain exceptional dynamic as I know it. On the other hand, everyone and anywhere could find his own dacha state of mind.
Evgeny’s website: www.evgenymakarov.com
- Interview: Andrey Sosnin
- Translate & Text Editing: Alina Medvedev