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About the Photographer
American, b. 1977 Moscow, Russia
Anna Shteynshleyger's photographs of Siberia examine the sites of Russian labor camps under the former Communist regime. Specifically, the images in her Siberia series are the culmination of three different trips to different regions of Russia: Kolyma, Perm, and Moscow and its surroundings. The juxtaposition of these visually stunning landscapes with their history of containment and oppression draws an interesting paradox about the character of modern Russia. Issues of place and history are further complicated by the way Shteynshleyger's landscapes reference those of nineteenth century Russian painter Isaak Levitan. She also counts among her influences the work of sixteenth century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder and twentieth century Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.
Her series "City of Destiny" (2004-2009) is comprised of portraits, still lifes, interiors, and landscapes taken in various locations in the United States and Russia. The title derives from the official motto of the city of Des Plaines, Illinois, a Chicago suburb where Shteynshleyger lived for five years. "City of Destiny" is a contemplative examination of the artist's relationship to the Jewish community to which she belonged for many years. The images retain an aura of questioning detachment and quiet observation informed by Shteynshleyger's felt status as an outsider: first as a Jew in Russia, and later as a Russian émigré in the United States. Upon coming to the United States, Shteynshleyger began photographing the world around her as a way of controlling it as well as connecting with it: "I was attempting to edit the world by composing various elements and components within the frame. It is as childish as magical thinking. As if placing things on the ground glass of a camera changes their status. As if reducing the world to two-dimensional flatness changes its impact on me." For Shteynshleyger, being a photographer mirrors her experience of reality: a photographer observes and composes the world with the desire to connect with it, but will always fail to make that connection. The camera separates her from the world while also allowing her to contemplate it.
Anna Shteynshleyger was born in Moscow, Russia in 1977, and came to the United States in 1992. She completed a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (1999) and an MFA from Yale University (2001). Shteynshleyger is a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship recipient (2009) and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.