A lack of protection around the principal cities in France was the main cause of France’s defeat by the Prussian armies in the 1814-1815 wars. Railways, a then recent invention, were held in high esteem by the French military for its ability to transport large military troops and material faster then ever before. For this reason the Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture, French for “little belt railway” was created, as a connecting railroad between Paris’ main stations within the fortified city. The Petite Ceinture was in full function as off 1852 but since 1934 it has been abandoned. However, large parts of the old circular railroads and its connected stations are still there. Some in use, absorbed into the newer and more complex public transport network. And others as silent reminders of a time gone by.
Fedya Ili was born in Russia and spent most of his life in Moscow and Volgograd. He made a career in art directing but when the crisis struck and he found himself without job, Fedya decided to make the best of it and started traveling. For months in a row he would flee the cold, expensive and unwelcome streets of Moscow, in order to explore new places in other parts of the world. He has done so for quiet some time now, in companionship of his camera. Fedya sees himself as a nomad, meeting new people in every place he goes, taking photos and painting pictures. Currently he resides in Paris, but he is already planning to relocate for the winter and will most likely settle for some months in Argentina.
Leo Tolstoy was a Russian author who is most famous for his novel Anna Karenina. This tragedy of the married Russian aristocrat and socialite Anne Karenina and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky is by many considered to be one of the greatest novel ever written. For Fedya Ili it was a source of inspiration that came to life in an unusual concept when he visited one of the abandoned railway station of the partisan Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture at Paris la Chapelle. Touched by the intense sense of loneliness and melancholy, Fedya decided that this would be a perfect backdrop for a photo shoot. He recruited Parisian male model Eric Bras and together they set to work.
“The main idea is waiting, frozen time,” Fedya Ili explains when asked about the concept of his series. “It is kind of a love story. A bit Karenina - waiting for love. It is symbolized by the old train station and old top hat. It is an empty world and he [Eric] is longing to experience new love.” Fedya succeeded to capture the melancholic, nostalgic atmosphere with his camera and shot a series of many portraits of Eric, dressed in a burlesque kind of outfit without pants that seems to place him both in the Parisian bohemian world of the 19th century and in today’s reality. Much like a lost lover from the past, a spirit who returns to the place where he was once supposed to be reunited with a lover now long gone.The fact Fedya shot all analog with 35mm black and white film, adds to the sensation of old and abandoned. The whole image seems to be a capture of a time gone by, as if Eric has stepped in a parallel universe.
Sometimes when you really look for it, you can find these places in today’s modern cities. Places that are a reminder of a lost era, a silent witness of a time and a life that once was and that will never come back. Fedya Ili used his camera and his skills as a filter, spread over one of Paris’ long abandoned train stations and weaves a new reality that mixes that old world with our own 21st century reality. And he has done it with a skill that makes his contemporary photography as timeless as the lost stations of the Petite Ceinture in Paris. –BM-
FEDYA ILI | BEAUTIFULMAG