“Nikolai Avenirovich Shabunin was a quiet, unassuming person, likable in the truest sense of the word, Russian through and through. He was a serious worker, an excellent painter, endowed with the pure spirit of artistic creativity, a wellspring of the most elevated motives. In him, Russian art has lost a creator who was only just coming into his own, and Russia has lost an honest, modest, yet dogged figure, who might have attained great significance in his chosen field.”
Even taking into account that Kondakov’s glowing words are an obituary, they are not overblown. Shabunin, had he not died young, might well have gone on to create numerous great works of art. In fact, one body of work he succeeded in completing was pathbreaking and utterly remarkable. And to this day virtually unnoticed.
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Shabunin actually called the Komi “Zyryany,” and the Nenets “Samoyeds.” According to the 1897 Russian census, there were about 25,000 residents of Mezensky uyezd, 91.2% of them Russian, 4.4% Komi, and 4.2% Nenets.
It is not known what sort of equipment Shabunin used. While Kodak was making some rather portable cameras by this time (the Brownie was introduced in 1900), the size and quality of his images, long-exposure blurring, and lack of architectural distortions suggests a larger format camera with bellows that would have required a tripod.
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