2007: premonition of the apocalypse

It seems to me that over many years in the profession, I learned to understand from the picture what I felt and with what eyes the photographer who made it looked. I have already forgotten what I shot and what I felt in the mid-2000s. But, accidentally opening the 2007 folder, I was amazed: it was then that the abyss opened up to me. About a year before, I finally crawled out of the cocoon of personal themes and experiences of the previous few years and began to slowly shoot the life around me again. Judging by the pictures, then I was struck in earnest.

Everything seemed to be not so bad: a vibrant cultural life, clubs, informals … Some parties and movements multiplied (albeit, acquiring more and more bizarre forms), the opposition gathered conferences and held Marches of Dissenters, young people organized actions of political art on brink of a foul, posters of Shevchuk and BG hung. A variety of people marched and rallied through the streets with flags of all colors (except for the rainbow – this was no longer allowed, although the law on “gay propaganda” would appear later). But from the pictures, a giant black hole looming over it all looked at me. (Text continues after photos)

In 2007, on top of everything else, elections to the Duma were held (and three months later Medvedev was “elected”). Let me remind you how they differed from the previous ones: the entry barrier was increased from 5 to 7 percent; the lower turnout threshold and the “against all” column have been removed; the majority system and voting in single-member constituencies were abolished; association in elective blocs is prohibited; independent observers are prohibited. Free elections in Russia are practically over. But I’m not even talking about that, you won’t see these nuances in the photographs.

So what is it that impressed me so much now, forcing me to plunge back into that time again?

1. Communists, National Bolsheviks, nationalists of various stripes, “new imperialists” – Eurasians and quite obviously government-created movements predominate among the protesters and marchers. I did not specifically choose them for filming – I went everywhere. Then it seemed that they are all different and stand up for different things. That the authorities also treat them differently and press them to varying degrees. But now it is clear that it was all about one thing.

2. All the demonstrators clearly show nostalgia for the past (from Alexander Nevsky to Stalin) and ambitions associated with the “revival of greatness.” Russian resentment breathes on us from these 16-year-old photos.

3. In the style of designing the urban space – sovereignty, pomposity, glamorous masculinity and the same nostalgia for the USSR. Indeed, in addition to the state order, designers with advertisers themselves perfectly feel the public demand. Not without reason, in the winter of 2011-2012, they quickly shifted slightly in time, changing their style (however, still Soviet!) From the 50s to the 20s – in the spirit of Mayakovsky, the word “revolution” suddenly played in advertising. And just as quickly disappeared after the events on Bolotnaya. Especially (I remember this well) that year I was shocked by the New Year’s decoration of GUM: installations with mannequins appeared in the windows, designed to depict Soviet life in a touching candy form. But among the popular alyonushkas in folk scarves and cute New Year’s oranges, polished blondes with chiseled hard faces suddenly appeared, referring rather to the glamorous fascism of the Cabaret.

4. Colorado ribbons and children dressed up in military uniforms were already everywhere, which was perceived condescendingly by the “cultural society”, as the stupidity of savages, over which one can only laugh.

In short, in 2007 everything that terrified many only 15 years later already existed: imperial boots, repressions, militarism. The beneficiaries were already ready – the people whose hands all this will soon be embodied in a complete and finished form.

To the question “where were you for 8 years?” (not eight, of course, but much more) the pictures also answer: Moscow ate and shopped. Endless glamorous parties and festivals where I see artists and gallery owners, writers and politicians of all stripes and the whole ideological range – from imperials to democrats. And crowds of fellow photographers pushing and crawling in search of a good angle to capture all this feast (not in reproach to colleagues, but to understand that thanks to them everyone could see it, but did not want to). However, I deliberately do not show these pictures here. Not because I sympathize with those who are depicted on them (these are well-known people). I just don’t want to reduce everything to a traditional discussion of the personal qualities of this or that popular character, and this would certainly happen. And it would be another departure away from the main thing.

At the beginning of the next year, I started working on the Grani-TV project. In fact, all of it was a cry: look what is happening, darkness is rolling over us! But the majority, both then and later, perceived “Frontiers” simply as “a stream of shit poured on our tender souls.” When I shared my discovery from the 2007 archive with my wife, she said: “The photographer sees the signs, there is nothing surprising in this. It seems to me that many people in those years strained a lot not to see. But something else is more interesting to me: I saw with my eyes and with a camera, but what did I see with my “head”? Did he hide the truth he saw from himself? Why, after that, I devoted 10 years of active social life, and did not immediately go to hell? Was it because he believed that it was still possible to change? Or because he hid the worst part of the truth from himself? Or, nevertheless, with a clear consciousness “did what he should”? I don’t know yet.

Published in Grani.ru