Modern perceptions of Russia are in direct conflict with those of my own. Whilst many rave about Russia’s questionable politics and undoubted social problems, the culturally rich and magnificently beautiful cities of West Russia have captivated since my first visit in 2012, and I am not ashamed to say that Russia and its history have certainly grasped me.
Having lived in Yaroslavl, a smaller, more provincial town, I have been exposed to the direct consequences of the fall of communism in 1991. Whilst the metropoles of Moscow and St. Petersburg were engulfed by consumerism and western trend, the vast majority of cities across the nation found themselves trapped in a lurch between tradition and modernity, and this is a theme I have tried to illustrate in my photographs.
For me, street photography is the logical way to capture culture. Freezing moments in people’s everyday lives, embracing their daily rituals and decelerating the tumultuous flow of life is true art. Black and white photographs undoubtedly drag attention to the subject, giving the eyes of viewers no opportunity to stray away from the people within the images. Black and white gives no opportunity to discriminate, based on clothes, or location, or even colour. The material objects are relegated to the background as the life within my subjects jumps from the images.
From its Soviet architecture to its evergreen system of unfashionable trolleybuses and buses, Yaroslavl encapsulates all that is stereotyped as a typical Russian provincial city. Like many smaller cities, Yaroslavl was in some serious need of renovation. Buildings were crumbling, roads were potholed and transport was out-dated. Yaroslavl has an abundance of Russian Orthodox churches, from the grandiose to the miniscule. It is situated on ‘The Golden Ring’, a collection of smaller towns from which modern Russian Orthodoxy stems from. On the doorstep of one of the smaller churches, the powers that be decided that it would be beneficial to build a colossal shopping centre, completely ruining the classical aesthetics of the city and displaying an almost comical level of idiocy; the juxtaposition of the two buildings was a sight to behold. Russians adore preserving their history and culture (and rightly so in my opinion), but I feel that in the smaller cities, they are almost obliged to sacrifice true modernity in order to counterbalance the ever-increasing westernisation of Moscow and St. Petersburg. This cultural chasm was to be encountered again.