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Andy Freeberg | Guardians

In the art museums of Russia, women sit in the galleries and guard the collections. When you look at the paintings and sculptures, the presence of the women becomes an inherent part of viewing the artwork itself. I found the guards as intriguing to observe as the pieces they watch over. In conversation they told me how much they like being among Russia’s great art. A woman in Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery Museum said she often returns there on her day off to sit in front of a painting that reminds her of her childhood home. Another guard travels three hours each day to work, since at home she would just sit on her porch and complain about her illnesses, “as old women do.” She would rather be at the museum enjoying the people watching, surrounded by the history of her country.

      

Photographer Andy Freeberg is the author of Guardians, a book of photographs published in 2010 about the women who guard the art in Russian museums. He was born in New York City and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area alternating his commercial assignment work with personal projects. His photographs have appeared in numerous books and publications and in many private and public collections. His fine art prints are available through the Clark Gallery in Boston and the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles.

The book came about when Freeberg traveled to Russia in 2008 intending to document the country’s evolution since his last visit in the 1980s. But once there, Freeberg focused his lens on the retirement-aged women guarding Russia’s national treasures in the art museums. Freeberg discovered that despite sitting for hours and earning little pay, the women loved their jobs; they were deeply proud of Russia’s culture and felt honored to protect and share its treasures. He was struck by how the guards unconsciously resembled and complemented the objects in their care.

Thanks to Lens culture

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