Simon Roberts travelled across Russia between July 2004 and August 2005, making pictures in over 200 locations and creating one of the most extensive, comprehensive photographic accounts of this vast country by a Westerner. His images are not clichéd representations of a Russia ground down by poverty and despair; rather, he presents a beautiful and awe-inspiring land, with a dignified people empowered by a growing optimism and a deep rooted sense of national esteem. The photographs explore the notion of Russia’s “modest beauty”. Whilst acknowledging their country’s deficiencies, Russians nevertheless believe their native land to be a remarkable and exceptional place. They convey an optimism about their country, an optimism borne of more than just patriotism. They see Russia as home, their ‘rodina’, and they see its landscapes and people as being unique – set apart, spiritual, resilient, even holy. Russians carry with them an innate sense of the history of ‘the Motherland’ and, through it, feel inextricably connected to one another. This nebulous spirituality, this Russianness, is elusive yet all pervasive.

Motherland was published by Chris Boot Ltd (2007) and was shortlisted for the Arles Contemporary Book Award and selected as one of PHotoEspana Year’s Best Photography Books.

Motherland is a beautifully resolved body of work and the pervading air of melancholy, so suited the subject. The editing together of landscapes and figure studies work powerfully together – and Simon’s eye for the special detail that lifts a picture above a record to become a kind of poetry is evident in every image.” Martin Barnes, Curator of Photographs, V&A.


View installation shots here

The Meaning of Motherland essay by Rosamund Bartlett (link)

Contact sheet of photographic plates (pdf)

Reviews (pdf)