I have finally finished ‘tarting up’ the Baltic pictures. They can all be seen at the original northumbrian : light gallery site. There has been much mucking about in Photoshop so nothing appears quite as it should be. The camera always lies. For those easily bored or of a nervous disposition, be warned that there are 87 pictures – with a six second autoplay loop this is going to take nine minutes out of your life.
Deep under St Petersburg is the palace for the people, the Metro. Mostly pristine and certainly grandiose, only the rolling stock fixes the system in time and place. No moulded plastics, no bright lighting, the carriages are mostly wood lined with a depth of yellow gloss which can be traced back to the Neolithic. Above ground, the western influences are more obvious – girls in too tight, too short skirts, mid-day drunks, too large, too dark sunglasses and McDonalds. Amidst this is the Palace of Excess – The Hermitage – not too much wealth, just too much of everything. Whisked through the heaving crowds by a citizen’s band voice in the head, the guides are intent on promoting everything and examining nothing – a hall full of Rembrandts was dismissed in a brush stroke. The relief comes from looking upwards; away from the throng of heads hang the chandeliers, the bright gilt, the painted ceilings, the glass mirrors infused with gold to give a reflected image a flattering Photoshop Gaussian overlay.
St PETERSBURG: Russians do not smile much and a journey into the centre reveals why. Near the brand new port set in a flattened bleak landscape a six lane highway leads nowhere. Cordoned off at each end, the locals sit on the central reservation and picnic; evidence that such surroundings are an improvement on the urban sprawl where they live. Vast tenements reach upwards and outwards along the coast; this is not some hangover from the Soviet regime because they are building yet more. This does not look a happy place. I am reading Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines – the third essay, The Woman in the Field ends: You are placed in the landscape, you are placed in time. But, within that, there’s a bit of room for manoeuvre. To some extent, you can be author of your own fate. True in the West, less so here. So they seek alternatives.