The Territory
Maria Gruzdeva (Russia)

While climate change has become undeniably evident and humanity has to daily deal with the consequences of human activity on Earth, there are still a few untouched places left on the globe. It comes as no surprise that these territories are located in the most unattainable places on Earth. Nature Reserves are often set up to protect them. The project is about these intact areas and environmental scientists who live in remote research stations in National Parks and Nature reserves in Russia. Some of these specialists were born in these places, while others left big cities and relocated to these secluded bases away from the society. No matter where they come from, they are fully dedicated to their mission of preserving these areas, their nature and abundant wildlife.

The project explores their way of life in almost complete isolation and takes us on a journey from one of the biggest lakes on Earth, lake Baikal in Siberia, which contains over 20% of the Earth’s fresh water to another lake district in the North of Russia – Kenozersky National Park. The journey then continues in another Northern area – Putorana Platea, a large mountainous area above the Arctic Circle, listed on the World Heritage Site by UNESCO. From the extreme cold of the Far North we are then transported to the very South – Volga Delta, the largest river delta in Europe, which drains into the Caspian Sea and remains one of the most important areas for bird nesting and seasonal migration.

The series offer a glimpse into the idyllic concept of harmonious coexistence between humans and the natural world highlighting that this is something we cannot afford to lose.


Maria Gruzdeva is a photographer, researcher and multimedia artist, who mainly works on long-term documentary projects. In her work she explores such issues as collective memory, sense of place and belonging, the relationship between landscape and identity.

Her work has been exhibited internationally with group and solo shows in Russia, Italy, France, UK, Spain, Greece, Finland, Japan and featured in a number of photographic festivals, including Les Rencontres d'Arles and the Festival of Political Photography in Helsinki.

She is the first winner of the biennial Gabriele Basilico International Prize in Architecture and Landscape Photography, Ideas Tap & Magnum Photos Photographic Award and other competitions. In 2016 Maria was named one of the 30 Under 30 by Forbes Magazine in the Arts Category and in 2018 named one of the “It” Photographers in Millenials by IMA Magazine Japan.

Her work has been published into three monographs: Direction–Space! (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2011), Border: A journey along the edges of Russia (Schilt Publishing, 2016) The Song of Tkvarcheli (Danilo Montanari Editore, 2017). In 2017 it was also included in Firecrackers: Female Photographers Now written by Fiona Rogers and Max Houghton, published by Thames & Hudson.

Works from Direction-Space! and The Borders of Russia series are included in the permanent collection of National Museum Wales. Maria’s multimedia works from these series are also part of the i-mediatheque of Tbilisi Photography & Multimedia Museum.Maria is a member of the Associate Patrons Committee at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. She actively participates in talks and discussions around her area of research.