The Olympics are a way for a country to show itself to the world. Unfortunately, with the Sotchi Olympics the world is focussing on the politics of the country more than on sports, the people and it’s culture. We take the opportunity to show a part of Russia most do not see. Definitely not in the news. (photo above: Andrey Belkov)
Why should the world see Russian photography? Ksenia Klimanov of the recently founded Zeema Agency offered us her view: ‘Why people are curious about the new and unknown? Why are we thrilled to find new beauty everywhere? No doubt Russian photography is new and unique because of the people who make it. We study Dostoevsky and Tolstoy at school. We lived in socialism and now in different environment with different values. We are going through a big transformation in the past and now. And people are going through all of this in their own way. It’s a whole new individual world of each photographer. Different points of view, different worlds of different people like a puzzle can make everyone see with wide open eyes and open minds.’ (photo below: Alexander Pisarev)
Where the Olympics have become a successful event to bring athletes from all over the world together, for Russian photographers it’s difficult to feel part of a community according to Ksenia. When she and Andrey Belkov met in the autumn of 2013, they talked of the problems of Russian photography, and of how to solve these problems. They talked of the need of a Russian community of photographers, a network. A network that will promote Russian photography abroad but also promote foreign photography in Russia. A new company was born: Zeema Agency. This couldn’t be like a normal company, this network needs to feed off the mutual trust amongst photographers and be based on their mutual love for photography. A family of photographers, a Russian family of photographers. (photo below: Vladimir Seleznev)
They established two goals for Zeema Agency: #1: more exposure for Russian photography in Europe and the USA, #2 More exhibits in Russia. More exhibits in Russia? Despite it’s large population, there’s not much opportunity to see photography in Russia. Neither Russian photography or foreign photography. Also, for tourists it can be hard to find where to go: Russian photography websites are not in English. Big events for people to see photography are rare in Moscow. Succesfull events require large advertising budgets. Moscows size and layout is such, that there is no congregation of galleries in a neighbourhood where people can easily linger and explore.. The audience needs to know where to go. For the organiser it’s difficult to find the audience to tell them where to go.
How will Zeema agency change this? They will learn to communicate with society, publishers and galleries. How will they make money to support the community of photographers? First they need to create a mass, an active community. This is difficult. So what is the hardest step? Ksenia: ‘The next step! We need creativity, energy & desire to keep going!’.
What then can Russian photography add to the world?
‘…. Russia is a huge country that has totally opposite features in everything. We are, in our own way, between east and west, culture and wilderness, huge money and poverty, literature and censorship, humor and idiocy. And all of this is in Russian photography, in images itself and deep inside people who are making them.’