Moscow, 1991: portraits from the edge of change

Cold War Revisited

In The Moscow Project, Alessandro Albert and Paolo Verzone have produced a fascinating report on the changing face of the post-Soviet city. The pair visited the capital three times, in 1991, 2001 and 2011, taking more than a hundred portraits on each occasion. Their first visit took place in September 1991, two weeks after the August coup d’état that contributed to the USSR’s collapse.


“Equipped with a sign explaining in Russian that would we were looking for people to pose for us, we sought out pedestrians between 10 am and 5 pm,” the photographers recall.


“Stationing our large format, 4x5-inch folding camera at strategic locations bearing political or cultural significance, we moved each day to cover a new neighborhood or demographic.”


They took 180 portraits spanning ages, professions, nationalities and interests.


The original notion of the series was to use the camera as a time machine:


Today a flick through those portraits immediately takes us back to a Moscow which turned overnight from Soviet to post-Soviet.


We see the city through the eyes of its inhabitants:


A kid with a Yeltsin badge on his baggy sweater,


A newly married couple,


A navy cadet,


A group of Roma people.


Over 20 years later, the subjects must have completely changed,


But in the photos they are still looking into the uncertain yet hopeful future.


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