Lost souls: a generation goes in search of a post-Soviet identity

Photographer Sasha Rudensky was born and raised in Russia before moving to the US with her family in 1990. As a result, much of her work explores issues of national identity. Brightness, her latest project, was photographed in Russia and Ukraine between 2009 and 2014. Through the lives of her subjects, Rudensky examines the formation of post-Soviet identity and the traces of a shared past in Russia and Ukraine, a topic that’s particularly germane given the political tensions between the two countries. “Central to this series is a post-Soviet era characterised by a distinct brand of affectation, depravity, garishness and, more recently, anxiety and tension,” says Rudensky. “The protagonists in these images are part of an orphan generation of Russians and Ukrainians who came of age in an ideological void; they’ve disowned their past but lack the means for orientation in the present.” The title of the project, Brightness, was inspired by the meaning of the Russian word yarkost, which connotes beauty, light and a desire to be remembered. “Their constructed world of fashion, ornament and spectacle are erected as a defence against historic dislocation,” says Rudensky. “Photographed in private and public spaces — the glitzy malls of tomorrow and the Khrushchev apartments of yesterday — they self-fashion and invent roles, collectively and individually forging new identities.”

29 August 2014

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