Starbucks in Moscow tends to attract a colorful, younger Russian crowd, which was where I randomly sat across from Grigori. A guitarist and recent college drop out, he says he likes the music at Starbucks and is trying to learn to play Jazz. Grigori said one of his favorite groups is 1990s American experimental group Deli Creeps, which had one of the best guitarists in his view. He said he was discussing the Deli Creeps guitarist with a Russian girl via social media and the two are now dating. He called their virtual connection a 'wonderful, random coincidence.' She lives 400km away and he travels to see her.
With her bright red coat and dyed red hair, Kristina really stuck out from the crowd on this recent snowy day in Moscow. Kristina said she wants to become an 'image maker,' helping people look their best. An 'eastern dances' performer, she said the most memorable event of 2014 were her work trips to China and Turkey with her dance group. Because of her Asian features and perfect Russian, "people in Turkey and China couldn't figure out where I was from." She said she is Kazakh from the capital of Almaty but has been living in Moscow the last 4 years. She is the first Kazakh I have photographed in my portrait series .
He was walking toward Arbat Street in a colorful outfit and instrument on his back, so I stopped to chat with him. He said he was born in Krygyzstan and spent a total of 18.5 years behind bars. When I asked for what, he answered "Everything! Marihuana, theft, armed assult." He then went off to meet some young people, leaving me with the feeling he may still see the inside of a prison.#prison #moscow #russia #portrait #life#streetphoto #story #photojournalism#instagood
Anastasia was walking through the center of Minsk in nearly all black, including Gothic-styled boots. I expected her to talk about an interest in some obscure hard rock genre. Instead, she passionately talked about her interest in recreating 15th century German life with a club she joined a few years back on the recommendation of a now ex-boyfriend. She said her group consists of about 30 people, nearly split 50-50 between men and women. She said they take part in Middle-Age festivals around Belarus and neighboring countries. I asked what attracts women like herself to such clubs. "It's romantic - knights, beautiful dresses, music. You leave all your problems behind. It's an unforgetable experience." The red 'scarf' she is wearing is a Middle-Age replica she made.
Evgeniya and her boyfriend Vanya (left) were visiting the friend (right) who initially intoduced them. Evgenia said she is going to be a baker like her grandmother. She fondly recalled visiting her grandmother at work for first time at the age of 8. Her grandmother let her play with the dough. I asked Evgenia what her favorite pastery is. 'Eclair - it's the hardest to make, but it is the most delicious.'
German was serving me cofee at a restaurant in the center of Minsk when I noticed the tattoos on his arm. They were from the film Spartak, a culture which is an inspiration to him. He said he is a mixed martial arts fighter and has taken part in 3 bouts. He has 'Fight til the End' tattooed across his chest.
Vladimir, 63, was playing in front of the Minsk food market on a cold, sunny December weekend. He said he retired from the state orchestra and occasionally plays at some private events, but prefers playing what he likes on the streets. He said he worked once as a musician on a US cruiseliner, a job his son found for him. Vladimir said he even played on the streets of NYC, once taking his trumpet to Chinatown, where he played a few hours. He said he prefers classical and Russian music though to American Jazz. "Russia has a lot of soulful music."
Liza, 17, is also studying Chinese, but for a slightly different reason than Valeria (previous portrait). Liza said she like Asian cultures as a child, including some Chinese songs. She said she felt there was a good future in learning Chinese and was confident she could find a job. There are about 1,000 studying English at her university but about 100 studying Chinese. "It's good to learn English, but it is also good to learn Chinese.
Following up on my previous post about IT outsourcing to Belarus...Anton is one of the thousands of Belarusian programmers working for foreign companies. He and a team of about 27 work on the design and performance of US clothing company Lands' End website. According to some statistics, Belarus programmers earn on average 1/5 of a US programmer. Anton said the biggest event in his life in 2014 was becoming an officer in the airforce and finishing his military service.
A few more holiday shots ....Alex was heading toward the Moscow metro around midnight a few days before the New Year's holiday, carrying his ice skates and wearing a Santa Claus mask. He said he recently lost his job - explaining why he was out so late before a work day - and was 'trying to find himself.' Having studied hospitality because he enjoys commmunicating with people, he said worked at a state-owned company under a former military official that didn't appreciate his lighter-hearted style. It wasn't as if Alex were new to such a strict environment - he said he had done his year of mandatory Russian military service. Alex said the service was in some ways a good school in preparing one for life. 'You are with complete strangers and you have no where to run. You have to learn to live with them.'