Photographer Dmitry Markov grew up Pushkino, a hardscrabble industrial town north of Moscow where, for Markov and many of his childhood friends, sniffing glue and spending days outside avoiding their alcoholic dads seemed relatively normal. Somehow, though, the 35-year-old plotted a course — through blogging, activism, and photography, which eventually won him grants and commissions from Russia’s most prestigious publications (even if some tried to avoid paying him). But Markov’s story is not a simple case of a talented kid making good against the odds.
Although he’s been hired for glitzy PR events and flown abroad to showcase his work, Markov keeps his work and his life firmly grounded on Russia’s grittiest streets. He has amassed an Instagram following of more than 200,000 people.
Summer in Pskov. From 2005-2012, Markov volunteered at an orphanage in the city, which is close to the border with Estonia. After his camera was stolen from his room in the orphanage, he switched to an iPhone for his photography, reasoning that the image quality of a big, heavy camera was less important than the freedom of a cell phone. “Quality? Screw it, I’d sketch things with a pencil if I could draw,” he wrote in a blog post.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Siberia Desk, Markov explained his choice of heroes for his photographs with a story that reads like something straight out of Chekhov: “My grandmother died recently. She worked as a seamstress in a factory. Under the bed she was lying in the weeks before her death, she kept a sack of potatoes — she sewed these same sacks every day for decades. My grandma lived like this. You could call this ‘doom,’ too, right? I doubt young people dream of working all their lives in a factory and dying on a mattress above a bag of potatoes.”
“I doubt young people dream of working all their lives in a factory and dying on a mattress above a bag of potatoes.”
“At the same time, when I see these scenes — these [saleswomen on a cigarette break pictured above] or this bag of potatoes, I want to see the meaning and beauty in it. This is life. It passes by like this. And it’s not two or three people. Most people live like that. I want to capture them. Look at any magazine rack: stars and celebrities. I want to capture the simple person, to show the beauty of ordinary life.”
“Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to look after kids with cancer. At least then there’s a clear scope for your involvement. Everything worked out, the kid was cured, fine, it’s done.
A volunteer in a cancer ward has no obligation to think about who this kid will become in a decade. He wasn’t cured, he died — well you cry, accept it, and move on. The kid won’t be hanging out on the street corner with a packet of glue…or texting you from prison, plunging you into gloomy thoughts and guilty feelings.” (Via rferl)
Dmitry Markov on Instagram