Depicting the vast outline of the world's largest country in one photographic series is a daunting prospect. Russia's border meets with 16 other nations (not including Abkhazia and South Ossetia), and at more than 12,000 miles long, it spans almost every conceivable visual landscape. Maria Gruzdeva's four-year-long survey, titled The Borders of Russia, took up this challenge. With plans dictated by the seasons and weather conditions, and with access contingent on military approval, the project was forced into an organized sprawl. "When I was just starting the project, I didn't have time to think about it properly," Gruzdeva said. "I didn't have all these regions planned out and then think, When I've finished photographing all those places, I've finished the project. I saw it as a work in progress from the start. If I had actually taken the time to think about it properly before I started shooting, looking back, I would have thought it was too much."
Alongside shooting photos for the project, Gruzdeva meticulously recorded her travels in notebooks, combining handwritten names and facts with small contact prints to create a more comprehensive record of her journey. "The nature of work I was doing was primarily documentary, so all that information was an important part of the project. It adds another dimension to the work in general—the facts accompanying the images make them almost more real. Even for me, some of the things I was witnessing seemed at times a little out of this world. Together with the information, the images become a sort of evidence."
This project was supported by the IdeasTap & Magnum Photos Photographic Award.