In Manzhouli, he spent time with Sun Shengchang, a Chinese logger, and Katya Dianova, his young Russian wife. In Monteleone’s photograph, they look like archetypes: Sun with the high cheekbones, long nose, and angled eyes of the northern Chinese; Dianova with fair skin and gentle features that could have been described by Tolstoy (“this black-eyed, wide-mouthed girl, not pretty but full of life”). She holds their daughter, Natasha; he holds their son, Ramin. Their apartment is decrepit: peeling paint, rusty radiator. But there’s a glow to the little family—in this strange borderland of fake churches and invisible bridges, the dingy room contains something intimate and real. “They didn’t have a lot of money, but they were a very sweet couple,” Monteleone said. “You could tell that they really loved each other.”
- from Invisible Bridges: Life Along the Chinese-Russian Border by Peter Hessler. Photograph by Davide Monteleone.