OSTRANENIE (остранение)

Traversing Russia by train, from Vladivostok in the far east to the capital Moscow, hundreds of stories unfold just outside one’s window. Glimpses of life that leave us wondering what took place prior and what might occur next. There’s no time to find out though, as the train steadfastly continues along its 9289 km long journey across the Siberian heartlands.

Contrary to a conventional story with a beginning and an end, each transitory moment, frozen in the mind of the photographer and, with some luck, in the camera, becomes thus the starting point for our own imagination running wild. We envision the people in the photograph as protagonists in an unfolding plot. Will the men get in through the back door? Is the woman finally able to leave her abusive husband? How many lives were lost? Was it an accident?

These momentary encounters cut short by the unstoppable movement of the observer solicit an empathy with the characters. Long after the images have faded the stories continue to reverberate in our minds. That those stories are not the objective truth is entirely besides the point. We’ve put ourselves into other people’s shoes and for more than a passing moment, on a train ride across seven timezones, or looking at a simple photograph, the world feels a little less alien.

(Defamiliarization or ostranenie is the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar. According to the Russian formalists who coined the term, it is the central concept of art and poetry.) from Wikivisually