"Siberia Through the Eyes of Russian Photographers" at American University Museum Sunday, Nov. 17

As far as most Americans are concerned, Siberia is a mystery. A new exhibition of photographs of Siberia, shot by Russian photographers, pulls back the curtain, but only slightly. The exhibit’s finest works offer something unanticipated: a funeral pyre in use, a girl spinning three hula hoops at once (shown), a soldier with central-Asian features reading a magazine with a blond cover model, a Trans-Siberian Railway worker from 1912 captured in vivid color. Ultimately, though, one photograph by Vasily Shumkov may encapsulate Siberia best. Taken in the 1980s, a time when provocative documentary photography wasn’t exactly a safe profession in the Soviet Union, the image depicts rows of grave markers at a prison camp. The markers are merely branches stuck into the ground, and they declare a human foothold in this harsh land. Yet at the same time, layers of snow, patiently waiting, threaten to bury these flimsy grave markers until they, and the memories they store, have vanished. The exhibit is on view Tuesdays to Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. (202) 885-1300. american.edu/cas/museum/.

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