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Nadia Sablin

Sablin cover mockup

In northwest Russia, in a small village called Alekhovshchina, Nadia Sablin’s aunts spend the warmer months together in the family home and live as the family has always lived—chopping wood to heat the house, bringing water from the well, planting potatoes, and making their own clothes. Sablin’s remarkably lyrical and evocative photographs, taken over seven summers, capture the small details and daily rituals of her aunts’ surprisingly colorful and dreamlike days, taking us not only to another country but to another time. Alevtina and Ludmila, now in their seventies, seem both old and young, as if time itself was as seamless and cyclical as their routines—working on puzzles, sewing curtains, tatting lace, picking berries, repairing fences—and as full of the same subtle mysteries. Sablin collaborated with her aunts to recreate scenes she remembered from her childhood and to make new images of the patterns of their days. In these photographs, Sablin combines observation and invention, biography and autobiography, to tell the stories of her aunts’ life together, and in the process, quilts together a thoughtful meditation on memory, aging, and belonging.

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“Nadia Sablin, who was born in Russia but has lived in the United States since she was a girl, has visited her father’s sisters each summer for seven years now, finding comfort in knowing them and celebrating the lives they have chosen for themselves. . . . Their bright clothing, the pleasing picturesqueness of their home and surroundings, bring to mind the bright-colored illustrations in Russian fairy-tale books that were so important to such modern artists as Wassily Kandinsky. In these pictures it is always spring or summer, the garden flourishes, the women enjoy the span of the seasons. The photographs are warm with an aroma of the magical. . . . [Sablin] chooses to show their way of living as almost enchanted: we can hardly believe that what we see in these pictures will ever disappear.”—Sandra S. Phillips, Prize Judge

“In 1952, my grandfather began to lose his vision as a result of being wounded in World War II. Wanting to return to the place where he grew up, he found an unoccupied hill in a village north of St. Petersburg, close to his brothers, sisters, and cousins. He took his house apart, log by log, and floated it down the Oyat River to its present location and reconstructed it. More than sixty years later, this house is still occupied by my aunts from April to September. The two women, who spent their youth working in big cities and never married, have relied on each other for support and companionship all their lives. I have been spending my summers with them, photographing their habits and occupations and the small world that surrounds them. Leaving and returning again divides our time into chapters, as the story moves toward its inevitable end.”—Nadia Sablin

Aunties: The Seven Summers of Alevtina and Ludmila
Photographs by Nadia Sablin
Foreword by Sandra S. Phillips
Afterword by Nadia Sablin
88 pages | 11 x 8.25 | 54 color photographs
$45.00, hardcover | ISBN 978-0-8223-6047-6

Available in November 2015 in bookstores or by ordering from Duke University Press


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