Page 1

True Russia


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 3

2021-12-14 19:21

Alexander Petrosyan


ussia cannot be understood with the mind alone, according to one oft-repeated saying. It is the country Sir Winston Churchill called “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. However, if images can aid us in understanding, there is a great deal to take in from the works of photographer Alexander Petrosyan. In much the same way as his photographic hero Henri Cartier-Bresson shaped our view of Paris, Petrosyan conveys an image of Russia and St Petersburg – his hometown – that is far removed from glossy tourist brochures.

Anyone who has visited that Russian metropolis will recognise the Winter Palace, the Bronze Horseman, St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Peter and Paul Fortress and the main avenue of Nevsky Prospect in Petrosyan’s photographs. But these famous locations serve mainly as backdrops for his real subject, the city’s residents. As he explains, “The city is a natural habitat for most modern people; the city and the people constantly act on each other – that is the inalienable theme of my photos.” Alexander Petrosyan’s street photography is infused with humour and empathy. His images are populated by youth gangs dressed up for a night out, homeless alcoholics, winter outdoor swimmers, newlyweds, military parades and religious processions – as well as the city’s dogs, cats and birds. The whole spectrum is present: beauty and filth, melancholia and joy, strength and weakness, new wealth and entrenched poverty. Petrosyan does not think that images can change the world, but they can help us to understand it a bit better. “By nature, I’m an observer and I’m interested in all manifestations of life. I want to show St Petersburg and its inhabitants in all their colours: kind and naive, evil and scary, buffoons and holy fools,” he says. Alexander Petrosyan is one of Russia’s best-known photographers, garnering awards and acclaim for his photos of the streets he has walked down for over 40 years. He never tires of the city’s constant transformation and likes to quote the Polish poet Stanisław Jerzy Lec on St Petersburg: “In reality, everything is somewhat different than in reality.” Petrosyan explains: “I travel a lot, but I usually don’t share pictures from my journeys. The eye of a tourist can only offer a fleeting glimpse from the outside. This is my world.” His world corresponds to St Petersburg’s historic centre, near the Neva River’s outlet into the Gulf of Finland. “I don’t feel the city when I’m in the suburbs. They’re so uniform and monotonous, you could be in Moscow or Novosibirsk.”


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 5

2021-12-14 19:21

Annunciation Church.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 13

2021-12-14 19:21

A rain dance during a Russian Orthodox holiday.

True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 28

2021-12-14 19:25

Celebrating Russian Navy Day.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 29

2021-12-14 19:25

By Peter and Paul Fortress.

True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 42

2021-12-14 19:27



True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 47

2021-12-14 19:28

Guests at wedding.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 61

2021-12-14 19:30

The metro on Halloween.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 95

2021-12-14 19:34



True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 109

2021-12-14 19:37

Police detain protesters.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 113

2021-12-14 19:37

Parade of brides.

True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 134

2021-12-14 19:40

The former imperial stables at Tsarskoe Selo, Pushkin.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 147

2021-12-14 19:43

Cordoned off by the police at an opposition protest.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 151

2021-12-14 19:44

Football fans celebrating a win for the Russian national team.

True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 164

2021-12-14 19:46

Communists at the anniversary of the October Revolution.


True_Russia_Petrosyan_INLAGA_SKARP_14_dec_.indd 165

2021-12-14 19:46

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.