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Alexander Anufriev is a photographer born in 1988 in Ukhta, Komi Republic. He graduated from the Rodchenko Art School in 2017.
Winner of Sony World Photography (2017), Silver Camera (2015), finalist of the LensCulture Exposure Awards competition (2017) and the PDN Photo Annual Awards (2017).
He lives and works in Moscow, Russia.
Where are you from, where are you based now? Could you tell us a little about both?
Basically I’m from a small town called Ukhta (Komi Republic). It’s right on a polar circle in the middle of Russia. We moved to Moscow then I was 11 because my father died and my mother had to work 3 jobs because it was the 90s, a difficult time for Russia. In Moscow it was easier to find good work. Since then I’ve been living and working in Moscow.
What’s your earliest memory behind the camera?
I was never into photography and we had no cameras in our family so it happened very late – then I was 24. At that time I was working at a creative agency having a great career and opportunities but I wasn’t happy. And then I saw crazy images of russian photographer Alexander Petrosyan and realised – “That’s what i want to do!” I bought my first camera and quit my job 6 months later. Since then it was my main activity.
Can you tell us about your project “Close-Up Russia” and how has it been during the pandemic?
This series is a subjective look at aspects of contemporary life in Russia and at the same time this as a visual dictionary of a whole country. For me it’s about finding out what defines Russia nowadays, that’s why besides my subjective interests and national cliches I visualise significant social processes that took place during last years; clericalization, forcing of patriotism and nationalism, strengthening of censorship and propaganda.
In the end I think it was my reaction to the historical circumstances in which I found myself. Sublimation of those things that happened 2012-2016 in Russia. Nation was misled by national TV fully owned by the government. A lot of opposition politics, journalists and activists were detained by fake criminal cases. Patriotism became one of the main agendas for almost every state-related organisation. Then Crimea happened. Russia fell into a financial crisis: average salaries fell down by 20% and at the same time prices in stores went up twice. Russia has become a closed country for its people. Because of a currency exchange rate it’s almost impossible to travel abroad.
Doing this project most of the time I was feeling angry because of our government and things they did to Russia and its people. Maybe that’s why these images may look a bit aggressive.
I did this series 2016-2017 since then I haven’t shot anything additional to it. So nothing happened during the pandemic. But I already have an idea for the second chapter of this series and I’ll start shooting it in 2022.
What aspect do you like the most about shooting people and how do you deal with social dynamics and crowds to capture what you want?
For two years I was a street photographer so in a crowd I’m like a fish in water. I can easily shoot unnoticed and if I need something precise I start to talk to people. But most of the time my approach is to do candid images. Sometimes I ask someone to stand still so I can make a shot, but I prefer not to ask if it’s possible. I shoot in crowds a lot – that’s how I get so close. Average distance for images with people is 20-80cm. Sometimes I shoot from behind so people don’t even see me. Sometimes I pretend that I’m shooting something behind the person and he/she prevents me from doing this.
For you, what is the most controversial side of your Country?
I think the most controversial is how easily we gave up our freedom. When in the 1990s Russia threw down the totalitarian communist regime, it seemed that nothing could prevent it from becoming a part of the civilized world. Russia chose freedom and democracy. Then no one could have foreseen that the country would return to a one-party political system and live under control of a permanent leader again. However, that’s exactly what happened.
The idea of Russia’s greatness and its special path has proved to be in demand, and now, no matter what happens in the country — no matter how officials and members of the government steal, no matter what geopolitical adventures the president gets involved in, no matter what unconstitutional laws the Duma (russian parliament) passes — they can always count on the support of 83% of the population. The vast majority of the country’s citizens were not ready for change.
They are not ready to take responsibility for their own lives and again want to entrust this function to the state. They are not ready to accept the rules, laws and norms of the world community, and thanks to propaganda, they are confident in their military, economic and moral superiority.
What’s your main source of inspiration at the moment?
Books and my friend artists.
Where can we find you online?