St. Petersburg: She sat outside a hotel, her luggage at her side, reading something on her phone. She was sporting an unusual outfit: a shawl on her head, a dark green dress and red boots. The young woman had she had moved here from Belarus and had just been asked to by the hotel to find another place to live. She didn't want to explain what happened, but was confident she would find another place to stay. She said she didn't want to go back to Belarus, explaining that she preferred the life in St. Petersburg.
North Russia: Sergey has been teaching in a remote, northern Russian village for the past two years. A teacher by education, Sergey first worked in sales in his hometown of Ulyanovsk on the Volga. Dissatisfied both with pay and the work in this hometown, he decided to go back to teaching, but in a remote region where the pay is higher and housing is free. Sergey taught English and geography at the grammar school in a village of about 300 people. Sergey would sometimes have to escort children from the neighboring village on the bus back home. While Sergey said he enjoyed the job, the living conditions weren't adequate. The old wooden home he was given to live in had no running water. Getting to the nearest town - 40 kilometers away - was difficult. Only one bus made the trek daily. Sergey planned to travel around the Far East of Russia while he thinks about what he wants to do next.
North Russia: As I walked around the North Russian village with my camera, a middle-aged woman walked up to me to ask what I was doing. When I responded that I was visiting a friend and taking photos of the village, she said she wanted to show me her living conditions...perhaps I could help her get the attention of authorities responsible for the state program to relocate people from poor housing. A mother of eight, she now lives just with her youngest son, 15, a student in the local school. The other children have already grown up and moved out, some living in the nearby town. She complained about the rotting wooden conditions of the entrance and stairs and the cold conditions in her home. She said he has been complaining to no avail.
North Russia: The village school in Tikhmanga was built in 1985 and has around 80 children. While the school goes to grade 11, there are normally just a few pupils in the 11th class, generally girls. The boys often leave after the 9th grade to attend a vocational school in the neighboring town that specializes on the automotive industry. A few pupils each year go on to attend university, normally choosing Arkhangelsk or Severodvinsk, both a few hours drive to the North. While the remote school doesn't seem to have received a cosmetic upgrade in many years, the teachers and students have Internet access and view assignments and grades online. There is no long-distance instruction at the moment. As I walked around the school with the English teacher Sergey, pupils came running up to have their picture taken. The children spend a lot of time on outdoor activities when school is over, either practicing soccer, riding bikes, playing on the swings or a game of hide and seek.
St. Petersburg: I passed three young men, probably not much older than 20, sitting on St. Petersburg main road Nevsky Prospect at about 12pm on a Saturday morning. The men said they were returning home from clubbing all night...and all morning.
St. Petersburg: Artem has held various jobs in his life, working in the oil and gas industry, including a stint in the US. Recently, he owned a clothing store selling American brands. However, the economic crisis made the business unviable. A father of two, Artem is looking now at getting involved in a sporting club.
St. Petersburg: Roman was slowly riding his chopper on the back streets of Nevsky around 3pm in the afternoon, rock music blaring from the radio he attached to his bike. Roman said it was the first day of his two-week vacation. Several people can be seen each day on such custom-made bikes in the center of St. Petersburg. There is even a chopper bike group that meets regularly in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg: Katya and Dasha, 14, grew up in Vladivostok in a military family and moved to St. Petersburg. They were walking along Rubenshtein, a popular street lined with cafes, restaurants and bars.
St. Petersburg: Masha, 18, was on her way to a mall to visit her favorite store: H&M. The teenager plans to major in cultural studies at university. H&M seems to have won over the hearts of Russian youth with the Swedish-based company opening stores in malls in most major Russian cities.
St. Petersburg: Many older women in St Petersburg dress up to go for walks on the weekend. Many, like Ludmila, wear matching-color hats. Ludmila, 74, recently registered on Instagram. She hopes to use the social platform to sell the braclets and necklaces she makes.