Photographer's Note

This is an image of a young lady who was busy entertaining children outside a pancake restaurant on a busy shopping street somewhere in Perm, where Serghei and I were tucking into our third meal of pancakes in as many days. I took her photograph as we left. It’s not a particularly accomplished photograph, it is just a quick snapshot. It was International Children’s Day and little events organised for children to partake in, were happening throughout the day, at various locations throughout the city of Perm. I simply wanted to record something of it for a memory of my trip.

However, since I have returned from Russia I have had time to reflect. Many of my observations and experiences have begun to crystalize in my mind and have informed and updated the cognitive schemas I had of Russia prior to my visit. To be honest I knew little or nothing of Russia and the daily life of its people. But several things have struck me in ways that make this image take on a new significance in my mind.

What this image made me realise was that the joy of the young woman in her everyday working life, the emotion of happiness, these are the kind of mundane freedoms that were absent from my schemas about Russian life based on knowledge transmitted via the media and reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn as I grew up.

Serghei, mentioned that in his life there was before Yeltsin and after Yeltsin. He said people thought Yeltsin a fool but for him personally he changed things and he had no time for Putin’s backward looking politics. It dawned on me too that what Serghei was possibly articulating was that he had tasted a new post-Soviet kind of freedom and wanted more of it. Growing up I recall how Yeltsin was pejoratively viewed in the west as an alcoholic. My personal view is that Russia is still conflicted within itself and is still uncomfortable with certain aspects of change, hence Putin. But there is a younger generation who are not so conflicted. This young woman was clearly not conflicted by the freedom to express herself. In fact, she probably didn’t even think about freedom. In that respect she could have been in any western, capitalist country. That’s not to say that freedom is everything it is cracked up to be, it has its critics, as does western capitalism, but freedom is partly being free not to think about freedom.

My advice to Serghei is then, buy a tiger suit and dance along the streets of Perm like the Pied Piper of Freedom!


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Additional Photos by Michael Wright (mjw364) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 630 W: 7 N: 391] (1466)
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