The gap between how foreigners view Russia and how Russians view themselves is wide and as old as the country itself.
Russian photographer Valeriy Klamm felt that foreign photojournalists who came to work in his country arrive with the pictures they want to send back home already in their head: Bleak images of a cold and desolate place where autocrats lord over drunks.
"They already know how to take pictures of Russia, and that’s how they arrive," Klamm said. "It’s always a wild country that’s in some kind of difficult transition period."
Klamm, himself, had never photographed much outside of his home city of Novosibirsk, where nearly 2 million people live on the banks of the Ob River in the middle of Siberia.
But in 2000, he started to visit these small towns, camera in hand. And in 2009, Klamm started “Birthmarks on the Map,” a collective photo project and website that collects these images in one place. He began to ask his photographer friends, both foreign and local, to share images of simple life in the rural Russian villages and small towns that dot the vast expanse from Europe to the Pacific Ocean. More than 60 photographers, both award-winning professionals and hobbyists, have contributed.
Klamm wanted to fill his site with images of real Russia life, and the result is something closer to ethnography or anthropology than journalism. Klamm actually works with ethnographers who study these small communities to find untold stories.
"Life in the middle of nowhere has always been difficult," he said. "But I see dignity in the difficulties of these people on the outskirts of our geography. Their patience and simple wisdom gives strength and hope. And this stuff is always necessary to mankind."
Linda Forsell. Cause of Death: Woman
Intimate Partner Violence
The one you love, you beat. – proverb, Sweden
More than a third of all women in the world are subjected to physical or sexual violence during their lifetime. The most common type is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) which one out of three women have to suffer. No country, and no economical class or age is exempted; and it has dire effects. Depression, alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and physical injuries are merely part of the outcome.
About the project
Cause of Death: Woman is a unique investigative report on violence against women in the world, describing atrocities ranging from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and acid attacks to more hidden types like psychological and physical violence between partners and rape.
Between 2010 and 2012 Linda Forsell documented the situation in ten countries together with reporters Karin Alfredsson and Kerstin Weigl. The countries included in the project are the USA, South Africa, Egypt, Sweden, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil, Congo, Spain and Russia.
The primary result of the work is www.causeofdeathwoman.com, an open resource for anyone who is interested, but with large focus on reaching out through organizations, schools, workshops and lectures around the world.
1. South Africa: The first time Elizabeth’s boyfriend beat her she was 16. Her boyfriend used to say to her: “You’re a dog. How can you expect anyone to love you when even your own mother doesn’t?”
2. Russia: Svetlana is forced to live with her husband that she has filed a lawsuit against for abusing her. The situation is common in Russia where housing is extremely scarce.
4. Brazil: Rosangela says she has survived twice. First when her husband threw petrol over her and set her alight – and then the negligence at the hospital.
Photographer Elena Chernyshova recently set out to explore those questions in Norilsk, Russia, a city of more than 170,000 people located above the polar circle.
In the early 2000s, Russia had more prisoners per capita than the United States. A 34-year-old man from the North Caucasus named Valery was one of them.
The course of Valery’s life is not uncommon for men his age. At 15 he started using heroin. He joined a gang. “I was a tough guy,” he says.
As the Russian state began to regain strength in the late 1990s, he found himself caught in Russia’s equivalent the U.S.’s war on drugs: a war fought primarily by law enforcement. In 2004, in an overcrowded prison near St. Petersburg, he learned he was HIV-positive. Prisons back then were incubators of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis. Valery isn’t sure how he became infected.
Released in 2010, he is kept alive by the antiretroviral drugs provided by the government. Valery says he is finally done with using heroin. “I don’t have any temptation to go back to that life,” Valery says. “I just grew up and realized I needed to have another life.”
Images by Pulitzer Center grantee Misha Friedman. View more images and read more about HIV/AIDS in Russia through Misha and Pulitzer Center grantee Gregory Gilderman’s reporting project: How to Lose a Drug War: Heroin, HIV and the Russian Federation.