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Russia has History. The largest country in the world holds lives, rebellions, ideas… In Russia we can find more than just matryoska dolls, Cossacks and vodka – there are also landscapes, cities, poverty, wars and murders. The pages of issue 11 depict the national reality of this country, upsetting stereotypes through documentary photography.
The photographs published here bring us so close to reality that the observer is drawn into it, proving that contemporary Russian photography is multifaceted. The pages of this issue feature six recurring themes and fourteen photographers with different takes on them.
Russia: Fourteen points of view
Alexander Gronsky travels to the Moscow suburbs to photograph ghetto high-rises over twenty storeys tall that reflect the most serious Russian social problem – solitude.
In the series Urban Utopia, Bee Flowers resorts to the use of a monochromatic palette in order to, like Gronksy, take a new look at the urban landscape of the post-Soviet era, where individuals still go unnoticed and functionality takes precedence over aesthetics.
Over the course of twenty years, Nikolay Kulebyakin has photographed windows around the world, and his shots of Moscow windows are featured in the magazine report. He conducts a metaphorical analysis by photographing these windows as elements connecting the inside and outside worlds, thus converting the window frame in an instrument of meditation.
In the early 1950s, when Moscow was suffering from a severe housing shortage, Nikita Khrushchev began to build the five-storey apartment buildings known as khrushchovkas. Alexander Rusov captures the decline of these structures in his series Quiet Life and The End, showing the duality to which they were subjected in the debate as to whether they should be destroyed or restored.
Evgeny Mokhorev compiles images of the city of Saint Petersburg as a cultural icon. His photographs capture the life of its streets, which serve as a stage on which the author is the starring actor.
In the series Corridor, Nadezhda Kuznetsova works with an element of interior architecture which, like other photographers, she uses as a metaphorical element – namely, the hallway. Her images glow with an aura of nostalgia where this element acts as a bridge between man and the outside world.
In Beslan, Rainy Autumn 2004, Valery Schekoldin uses his lens to trim and isolate emotions out of respect for the privacy of his photographic subjects, because showing pain before “strangers” is not acceptable in Northern Caucasia.
Eleven years ago, the Chechen uprising took representatives of the central Russian government by surprise, forcing them to negotiate and reach agreements to iron out their differences. Alexey Kuzmichev captured images of Grozny in 2006 to show the state of the capital city in the aftermath of these events. Troops, tanks, deserted streets – in a word, emptiness.
Christoph Grill has photographed the nations that were created after the fall of the former Soviet Union such as Armenia and Kazakhstan. Many of these countries have suffered from a political lethargy that has kept them from attaining complete independence, a situation that has had a dire effect on their cities and particularly their inhabitants.
In Everybody is Free, Victoria Ivleva also tours the former Soviet Republics. From Georgia to Turkmenistan, she portrays the inhabitants of these nations, telling their stories in a single image.
The series Christ Way was created by two participating photographers, Sergey Bratkov and Pavel Smertin, who photograph religious devotion in northern Russia after the fall of the USSR.
The rise of the nouveau riche is an ongoing phenomenon in most societies of developed nations. However, the class that has emerged in Russia has a style of its own. In LUX, Valeri Nistratov offers a graphic report on the jet set that has recently surfaced in Russia and the consequences of their presence.
Alik Yakubovich returns to his hometown to capture images of the lifestyle of its young people. The photographer’s own words sum up the essence of his photographs in the series The Lads: “They have it all, but sometimes they roam about like stray dogs.”