Beyond Sochi: Photos Of Russia By Russians

Marina, an insemination technician, and Lyuba, a milkmaid, pose for a portrait on a dairy farm south of St. Petersburg, near the road to Moscow.

hide captionMarina, an insemination technician, and Lyuba, a milkmaid, pose for a portrait on a dairy farm south of St. Petersburg, near the road to Moscow.

Sergey Maximishin, St. Petersburg

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.

A meeting of Cossacks in Nizhny Tagil, a town in the Ural Mountains.

hide captionA meeting of Cossacks in Nizhny Tagil, a town in the Ural Mountains.

Fyodor Telkov, Yekaterinburg
On Trinity Day in the village of Biysk in Altai, grass and birch branches are  brought inside to decorate an Orthodox Church.

hide captionOn Trinity Day in the village of Biysk in Altai, grass and birch branches are brought inside to decorate an Orthodox Church.

Valeriy Klamm, Novosibirsk
An eighth-grade student plays in a pick-up soccer match with her girlfriends in the Mari El Republic between the Russian cities of Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod.

hide captionAn eighth-grade student plays in a pick-up soccer match with her girlfriends in the Mari El Republic between the Russian cities of Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod.

Fyodor Telkov, Yekaterinburg
A man places reindeer antlers on a shrine in the Murmansk region, a peninsula in the Arctic north of St. Petersburg where he and others keep herds of reindeer.

hide captionA man places reindeer antlers on a shrine in the Murmansk region, a peninsula in the Arctic north of St. Petersburg where he and others keep herds of reindeer.

Alexander Stepanenko, Murmansk

But in 2000, he started to visit these small towns, camera in hand. He began to ask his photographer friends, both foreign and local, to share images of simple life the rural Russian villages that dot the vast expanse from Europe to the Pacific Ocean.

And in 2009, Klamm started "Birthmarks on the Map," a collective photo project and website that collects these images in one place.

Meyram Moldakimov takes care of a water pump facility in a village near Novosibirsk and washes under this pipe twice a week, no matter what the weather.

hide captionMeyram Moldakimov takes care of a water pump facility in a village near Novosibirsk and washes under this pipe twice a week, no matter what the weather.

Valerik Klamm, Novosibirsk
A celebratory dinner for a funeral in Altai, a region that borders Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China.

hide captionA celebratory dinner for a funeral in Altai, a region that borders Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China.

Igor Lagunov, Magnitigorsk
Swimmers enjoy a thermal spring with water that contains radon, a radioactive element. The locals revere the spring near the Mongolian border in Altai for its healing powers.

hide captionSwimmers enjoy a thermal spring with water that contains radon, a radioactive element. The locals revere the spring near the Mongolian border in Altai for its healing powers.

Valeriy Klamm, Novosibirsk
A Cossack practices tricks on his horse in the Rostov region near Russia's border with Ukraine in 2010.

hide captionA Cossack practices tricks on his horse in the Rostov region near Russia's border with Ukraine in 2010.

Misha Maslennikov, Moscow

"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."

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.

More than 60 photographers, both award-winning professionals and hobbyists, have contributed. One photographer is a dentist with a massive collection of classic film cameras that he takes to the villages around his city, like Rossiyka, in his spare time:

A boy named Zahar sits on an old car in a village called Rossiyka near Krasnoyarsk.

hide captionA boy named Zahar sits on an old car in a village called Rossiyka near Krasnoyarsk.

Alexander Kustov, Krasnoyarsk

Over the past five years, Klamm has relied on this loose collective to build a massive collection of imagery that depicts a Russia you won't see when you turn on the closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics this Saturday.

Grant Slater is in Siberia on a Social Expertise Exchange fellowship. He'll be contributing to the "Birthmarks" project. You can follow along with his travels on Instagram.

A kitten loves on an old woman in the Cossack village of Velikopetrovskaya near Cheliyabinsk. i i

hide captionA kitten loves on an old woman in the Cossack village of Velikopetrovskaya near Cheliyabinsk.

Igor Lagunov, Magnitigorsk
A kitten loves on an old woman in the Cossack village of Velikopetrovskaya near Cheliyabinsk.

A kitten loves on an old woman in the Cossack village of Velikopetrovskaya near Cheliyabinsk.

Igor Lagunov, Magnitigorsk

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