A guide to the New East

Long exposure: a vanishing people caught on camera

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While scores of artists from the Russian provinces flock to Moscow and St Petersburg each year, photographer Fedor Telkov, 25, has no plans to leave Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city. Along with Sergey Poteryaev, 27, he has spent the last few years documenting the changes sweeping across Russia, in particular the people and customs that are fast becoming obsolete. His project Ural Mari evokes August Sander, described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early 20th century”. As with Sander, subjects gaze directly into the camera, allowing the setting to tell a part of their story. Even though the Mari have their own republic, the Mari El, the project focuses on the group of around 24,000 who migrated to the Urals in the 16th century to avoid forced Christianisation. The collapse of the USSR brought with it a new set of problems — a decline in agriculture and rural flight. The result has been a gradual disappearance of the Mari way of life such as the art of creating Mari national costume. As a way of rescuing this tradition, Telkov’s subjects stand against a background of modern buildings, sleek cars and cityscapes dressed in national costume. “We create a kind of typology of people, situations, interiors and landscapes,” says Telkov. “We’re trying to create you a detailed snapshot of local phenomena and people.” To read the full article about Telkov and Poteryaev and see more of their photography, click here.

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