2015 - 2019
While life in the megapolises boils, the Volga River slowly brings its water downstream.
The concept of counterurbanization is now popular in many countries. Simple living has become a mainstream idea. Climate change is a public concern. In today’s world, people can choose.
In 2014, I made my way to the Volga river, and my friends, Elena and Vasily, became the first characters in this long, life-changing journey along its banks.
They moved from the big city to the rural area by the Volga river, and started a new life close to nature, building their new world instead of working for someone else in the city. I followed them with my camera.
A number of people have chosen this other way to start a new life in the countryside, discovering volunteering, reviving national heritage and crafts, farming, working in greenhouses, and building eco-villages. They have their own idea of a recipe to change the world, they try it out themselves, look for new senses, follow their own dreams, and take small steps towards their goals. Romantics and hard workers, those people became my inspiration, as did the great river.
And the river connects them all, like a mother taking them under her wing, like a road, a path to freedom.
The decision to move from a big city to a rural area has become a modern reality, though it is nothing new. One of the motives behind it is a change in values, from consumerism to ‘green’ living, from the rat race to a life in harmony with nature. In the 19th century, the philosophy of simple living advocated by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy became popular. Many Russians left the cities and went out into the wilderness in search of freedom. And these stories were echoed round the world - Tolstoy’s ideas were followed in many countries. Each story is different, but they all have much in common.
The world we live in is not black and white, but rather balances between the two edges, in a changing palette of colors. People in big cities are eager for harmony, but very often the future is hidden behind the skyscrapers, the path is erased by the tires of cars driving by. “We can see the horizon here”, says Elena.
The transformation of people’s perception of themselves and their future goals has become essential for many who choose this other way, and vital for building a sustainable and meaningful future. Greener approaches to living are becoming part of many people’s everyday life after the city. Many people reject consumerism, high social status and financial stability for the sake of moral and spiritual values and better health. They have decided to return to long-buried hopes and dreams. They want to build their own new world, and their search for their own islands takes them to the Volga River.
Rivers have existed before us and will go on living after us. Time passes like rivers flow by. Rivers teach us to go with the flow, to avoid obstacles, to be open to everything new. There is always a way out.