The photo project is dedicated to a difficult but unique period in the life of Moscow, as seen by five famous photographers: Arsen Revazov, Margo Ovcharenko, Nanna Heitmann, Alexei Kiselyov and Georgy Pinkhasov.
All participants are experts in their respective genres, and that's how the project has managed to bring together artistic expressions with different styles and intonations. What unites all the different photographs included in the project is the desire to capture the evidence of a dramatic and unique historic moment and to show the gratitude to everyone who helped keep the city alive during the tough times.
Nanna Heitmann is a documentary photographer from Germany. Nanna is the youngest nominee for members of Magnum Photos since 2019. She has received prestigious international photography awards. In her photographs, Nanna captures moments that convey the mood and the atmosphere in a concise and exhaustive manner. The play of colour and light conveys the fragility of life and the impermanence of all things.
Nanna Heitmann, about the project:
"When the virus broke out, I was in Moscow, and like most documentary photographers I was eager to find new characters and scenes. That's why I was thinking about travelling to more remote parts of Russia, somewhere the virus wouldn't be able to get to, and work there. Very soon, however, it became clear that it was a planet-wide pandemic and there was nowhere to hide, plus shooting in Moscow was actually very interesting and important."
"My mental state throughout the project was a mix of different, often contradictory feelings. Sometimes I felt enthusiastic after seeing all those people working so selflessly for the city and its residents, despite being tired and scared by the fact that I was also doing something important. On the other hand, the times were really hard for many people back then. I was looking at the blue skies and thought to myself how good I felt at the moment, how much I loved spring and the city, but then I would instantly feel sad about not being able to share that moment with my friends. Other people were also starting to feel different. During the first days of the project, you could sense that the doctors were nervous and stressed, and some of them confessed that it was a difficult time for them emotionally, but by the end of the project the atmosphere in hospitals became much calmer.
"During the project, I travelled by taxi a lot. The drivers were different: some were quiet and others were willing to talk. Conversations were mainly about their families. One Gett driver shared a very touching story about his wife who was worried about him and made sure his car had all the necessary protective equipment. I guess we all need more support from our loved ones and appreciate them more than ever during tough times."
Gueorgui Pinkhassov is a photographer, winner of international awards, winner of the World Press Photo contest in the "Art and Entertainment" nomination, member of Magnum Photos since 1988. Gueorgui Pinkhassov is a true expert when it comes to artistic journalism.
His unique talent allows Gueorgui to see and convey the feeling of something incredible in something ordinary. And that's how he keeps proving his own statement that what makes the art truly fresh, expressive and modern is not so much the object but the way of looking at it. Gueorgui’s first photos for the project were taken in the backyards of houses around his home. Dark buildings and bright windows, empty benches, tree leaves that look like they're breathing under the lights of street lamps, shadows and specks of light, the invisible presence of humans.
Gueorgui Pinkhassov, about the project:
"A sudden change of circumstances altered my plans: my daughter got sick, so I had to self-isolate for two weeks as it was required, and I could not shoot anything. And then I ended up joining the project. I was very much enjoying it: having experienced the restrictions first-hand, I was happy to move around freely once again. As a photographer and photography teacher, I'm against concepts. But it's ok to have one as a reason to move in a certain direction. As something that motivates you for creating things.
The main thing in art is not to be basic. The recipe is simple: get up, get dressed, go outside and see something. When you try to come up with a concept or style in advance, you're making your life easier and try to predict what's going to happen. A human need to know what's about to come is very useful in science and social life, but very dangerous in photography.
I haven't worked under a set of restrictions for a long time. Clients who know my style tend to give me carte blanche, so I am free to decide where to go and what to photograph. But this time there were multiple conditions that determined my limits: I went to where I could, not always where I wanted to. So a lot happened by accident, which is a plus for photography."
Arsen Revazov is an art photographer, opinion journalist and a public figure. Arsen took up professional photography in the early 2000s. His signature style is using infrared photography and double exposure. The main characters of Arsen's photographs are spaces and objects. The artist uses them to convey the timeless yet up-to-date atmosphere of the city. Revazov's Moscow is a majestic city created by people and for people, a large urban centre waiting to get back to its regular life. This impression is achieved with complex light effects and great attention to details.
Arsen Revazov, about the project:
"Moscow is a very beautiful city, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its beauty is made up of the charm of specific locations and their diversity. That's what separates Moscow from many other interesting cities—it has so many different versions and styles of beauty that you won't find anywhere else. But most of the time Moscow sights are oversaturated with storylines. City landscapes are filled with streams of cars and crowds of people—all the essential components of the urban lifestyle. Wonderful little villas are usually hidden behind the cars parked in front of them, so you never get a chance to photograph them the way you want.
Every stroke, every speck and transition of light adds to the overall picture, and the camera angle helps you instantly recognise a place, but also shows it from a different perspective. When the crisis broke out, I was at the largest international photo festival—FotoFest—in Texas, USA. When I realised I had to quickly decide where I was going to spend the following few months, I knew I wanted to be in Moscow. I came back just as the quarantine started and I was happy to join the project.
I received a lot of help from other people who were involved in the process; drivers would always rush to pick me up, which is crucial because my job relies a lot on the weather, and just by looking out the window I can tell if I can take some photos today; highway patrol officers were also there to help make my shots happen. Overall it felt like we all shared the feeling of living a unique moment and the need to capture it for the sake of history. People became more thoughtful and considerate to one another. We were longing for expressions of feelings and contact with others, and we became more compassionate."
Alexei Kiselyov is a photographer, DJ, and producer. He took up photography in 1998 in Ekaterinburg, gaining immediate popularity. He has been living in Mosocw since the mid-2000s. His works have been exhibited in major galleries of Moscow, and are regularly printed in magazines. Alexei Kiselyov works mostly in fashion photography and portraits. He is inspired by Moscow fashionistas, whose lives he has been scrupulously capturing on film for years.
Alexei Kiselyov, about the project:
"I just left my house and went for a walk in the neighbourhood. The Patriarch Ponds, Tverskaya Street—I love these spots and know them well. That's why I wanted to capture them during this moment of reboot, so to speak. As a result, I discovered my perfect Moscow: deserted but not abandoned'.
Frankly speaking, I never participate in projects and exhibitions—they're not my cup of tea. However, in this case everything fell into place, and I jumped on the idea to photograph something I would never be able to capture in normal life. My decision to take part in 'Heroes of Our Time' helped me reinvent myself as a photographer".
Margo Ovcharenko is a photo-artist and winner of international competitions; Margo earned her Master's degree from Hunter College, NYC. Margo's solo exhibitions have been held in Paris, Copenhagen, Saint Petersburg, Krasnodar and Moscow. Her works are artistic documentaries; Margo's style is a visual representation of a person's inner world with all its depth and doubts, struggle and humility, determination and vulnerability.
Margo Ovcharenko, about the project:
"We knew that when it came to hospitals we had to work very quickly: everyone, from doctors to administrative staff, were doing their part in a smoothly running process and often did not have a single spare minute. My task was to capture that world without disrupting its rhythm. The atmosphere in the Red Zone when medical workers are changing after a shift versus when they are about to start one are very different. After a day of work, everyone is incredibly tired, and having someone take their photos is the last thing they want.
Shifts can be 12 to 24 hours long, and doctors try not to eat or drink well before they enter the Red Zone, so they don't have to use the bathroom for as long as possible. But even there, in the middle of fighting the pandemic, humans remained humans. They found the power and the time to appreciate the importance of those moments. In one of the hospitals, several women working there wanted a picture of all of them together, to capture that part of their lives.
I think I will be proud of myself for doing it all, both as a photographer and as a person, because emotionally it was obviously not easy at all. I do hope that better times are ahead."
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