Relaxation Chamber: Visit the Russia beyond the Olympics, a Russia full of kitties and bunnies

Relaxation Chamber: Visit the Russia beyond the Olympics, a Russia full of kitties and bunnies

Welcome to Relaxation Chamber, an occasional look at the websites, videos, and other online ephemera that A.V. Club staffers use to calm their jangled nerves.

Is there anything more soothing than Russia?

Actually, let me back up here. If you, like me, are a workaholic or someone who just generally leads a stress-filled life, then you occasionally need a chance to let go of some of that tension and just revel in the relaxing wonders of the world around us. That might sound like hokey bullshit to a certain percentage of you, but I imagine there are just enough of you out there nodding in agreement—perhaps while your boss is emailing you constantly or while your kids won’t stop fucking screaming—that we’ll all become fast friends here in the Relaxation Chamber.

Which brings me back to Russia. For the most part, when I turn to the Internet to soothe me on a tough day, it’s for videos on YouTube or albums on Spotify, but every so often, there’s a photographer whose work is so rich and perfect that I have to stop and take notice. Such a photographer is Elena Shumilova (who I discovered via Bored Panda), whose work got passed around by a bunch of blogs a few weeks ago and now occupies a permanent place in my bookmarks. Shumilova is a farm wife living in Russia, and her favorite subjects are her kids and the animals on the family farm. But her real skill lays in how she captures the soft play of light across the landscapes—the way that she makes real life sorta look like a painting that hangs in a dentist’s office because it’s been scientifically proven to have a calming effect on most humans.

I mean, just look at this:

Yes, because this is the Internet, you noticed the kitty first, because kitty, but I love the way she captures the interplay of the sunlight and the lazily falling snow, the way that she captures a very particular, wintry brand of light.

Also, Shumilova knows that there is more to love in the Internet menagerie than cats. Cats are great, sure, but what about bunnies? Bunnies are underrated.

(That image gets bonus points for the ramshackle structure in the background, which may as well scream “Russia.”)

Many of us have this innate response to the natural world, I’ve found, a response that pings readily off the hunter-gatherer buried in our genetic code. And when I look at Shumilova’s pictures of the landscape around her farm, I feel a slight sense of the alien—of a world that I will almost certainly never see with my own eyes—but also a connection to my own childhood spent on a farm, to long winter days spent tromping through snow with my dog, to mornings when the sun burned mist off the fields beyond the barns. To be surrounded by that much space is to be reminded of your own impermanence and insignificance, just a little bit. While that might seem like a bad way to relax, I find that, paradoxically, it helps me put my own little problems in perspective. I get that feeling in Shumilova’s landscapes, which seem to stretch beyond the confines of my monitor.

And if nothing else, these photos should pull you back from whatever brink you’ve found yourself hurtling toward because they have kids and doggies hugging. Aw.

So lean back. Take a breath. It’s not so bad. Browse the gallery. Russia awaits.

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