A Provocative Homeless Wedding Album [NSFW]

We previously sang the praises of Ukrainian-born photographer Boris Mikhailov’s portraits of the alcohol addiction-afflicted poor in post communist Eastern Europe. His work is ruthless and difficult; it intrigues and repels. For his new book The Wedding, one particular narrative has been plucked from his Case History series archives. Mikhailov “commissioned” a homeless couple to simulate a wedding, posing for mock portraits and celebrating their union in their own surroundings. The resulting photos have been published in a bound, faux-leather, gold calligraphy-debossed imitation of a traditional wedding album. These are hard to look at, but it’s also hard to look away. Through their playful belligerence, we see the reality of the destitute conditions of the outcasts living in Russia without social support or care. And just maybe, we see wedding ceremonies themselves in a different light. Leaf through a few photos from the “album” in our slide show. … Read More

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Classic Soviet Anti-Drinking Propaganda Posters

With various seasonal festivities just around the corner, we know that some of our readers will be tempted to drink a little drink now and again. Spotted at the Poemas del río Wang blog, we’ve rounded up some of the Soviet era’s classic anti-drinking posters. Heed their enthusiastic, frequently constructivist warnings, lest you too are faced with peer scorn because you “got drunk, swore, smashed a tree” and are “ashamed to look people in the face.”

See, it was only with the forced industrialization of Communism and the influx of villagers into the city that drinking had become such a cultural dilemma. In the 19th century, Russians’ per-capita alcohol consumption “was among the lowest in Europe,” we’re informed. Enter: Propaganda posters. From the evil “green snake” of alcoholism, to the man metamorphosed into a belligerent fist, to the personification of a flawed pipe, dancing merrily alongside its drunken maker the terrible factory worker — meet the mascots of temperance and moderation. Just say “Nyet!” … Read More

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Fascinating Portraits of Russian Metro Drivers

Transportation malaise abounds in these photographic portraits of Russian metro drivers. It appears as though these vintage-esque gems were captured on the rail system’s camera, freezing the angsty expressions of its tired workers for all eternity. As anyone who rides the subway in a big city knows, your “subway face” is an essential coping mechanism (and sadly, survival skill) when dealing with various metro crazies lurking about. These guys definitely looked bored and beat, sporting a permanent subway scowl. Click through for more. … Read More

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10 Terrifying Mythical Creatures You Didn’t Know to Be Afraid Of

Has your lifetime been overwhelmed with terror tales of vampires, witches, werewolves, and zombies to the point that these overly familiar creatures are too boring to give you nightmares? Let’s face it — we’ve fallen into a repetitive freak funk, and we could really use some new ghouls to give us goosebumps. Fetus-licking bat torsos from the Philippines? Sure, why not! Corpse-craving Japanese greed ghosts? Sounds good to us! Gather ’round the campfire and lend us your ears, Halloweenies; we’ve scoured the ponds of Bohemia and the banana trees of Indonesia to bring you some of the globe’s finest frighteners. Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, we call this “The Tale of Other Cultures’ Creatures.” Read it after the jump. … Read More

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Made in Russia: Soviet Design Oddities and Masterpieces

If you thought iconic Soviet design stopped at Sputniks, Lomos, and Kalashnikovs, you’re about to get old schooled. The brilliant, essential book Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design travels back to a time when objects were built for function and uniformity — tilting dolls never toppled, drinking glasses fit exactly a third of a standard vodka bottle, and soda pop was available around every corner via communal vending fountains. Edited by Michael Idov and penned by expats, this insightful little tome is brimming with cultural heritage, humor, and pure design porn. Have a good read and a curious gawk in this slide show of some of our favorites. And please, hold the Yakov Smirnoff jokes. … Read More

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100-Year-Old Color Photos from the Russian Empire

No, color film did not exist in 1909, but chemist-turned-photojournalist Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) had pioneered a revolutionary method to document pre-Revolution Russian Empire and its multicultural surroundings. Using color-filtered plates of glass, he captured a red, a blue and a green channel of each of rivers, railroads, villages, churches of olde. Even more fascinatingly, we can look 100 years back in time on the faces of real peasants, factory workers, noblemen, soldiers, sailors and botanists. Peek into the past with these amazing scenes from 1909 through 1912, courtesy of the Library of Congress. The borders give it an extra magical touch, don’t they? … Read More

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Intimate Portraits of Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners

The prisoner’s eyes expressed a “mesmerizing human blend of fear and cruelty.” That was his first encounter, three years ago, photographer Michal Chelbin tells The New Yorker — a passing exchange of eye contact over a high brick wall somewhere in Ukraine. Drawn in, the photographer returned to the prison and began his new series Locked. He shot portraits without asking questions about his subjects’ crimes. Girls slumped side-by-side on a juvenile hall bed. Young men with tattoos, in slippers. Lanky, fur-hatted boys with James Cagney glares clustering in the prison yard. Looking at the portraits is like intercepting the brimming eye-contact between the photographer and the prisoners. What did they do? Is their punishment fair? Are they guilty? Incorrigible? Proud? Innocent? Before Michal Chelbin’s solo show comes to NYC’s Andrea Meislin Gallery in 2012, meet their eyes in our gallery and judge for yourself. … Read More

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Fascinating Photos of 19th Century Russian Peasants

A few weeks back, we gave you a voyeuristic glimpse into the insane world of Russia’s elite children. Today, thanks to our friends at Neatorama, we’re taking you on a time-traveling adventure that looks at inhabitants of the opposite end of the financial spectrum — the peasants of 19th century Russia. From a boy peddling his hand-carved abacuses to a group of women posing outside of their wooden hut, find a collection of William Carrick’s most fascinating portraits of everyday life after the jump. … Read More

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Photo Essay: Children of the Russian Elite

A young gent who plays with Kalashnikov machine guns. A girl posing in her father’s vintage car garage, deliberately and impeccably dressed as Catherine Deneuve. Clearly, there’s something very different about the children of Moscow’s intelligentsia, restaurateurs and diplomats. Photographer Anna Skladmann spent years capturing that “something” and recently shared it Spiegel Online. Trespass into Russia’s exclusive ranks of nouveau riche and see the tiniest masters of those domains in her series Little Adults. … Read More

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Artist Anton Ginzburg Looks for 'Hyperborea' in Woods and Gulags

In the past few years, sensationalist Russian news stories have claimed the discovery of Hyperborea — a land rooted in Greek myth, “a place of pure bliss, perpetual sunlight and eternal springtime,” supposedly located somewhere on the White Sea… right next to the snow-beaten, eerie sites of Soviet Gulag prison camps. Artist Anton Ginzburg has responded to this astonishing fantasy with project At the Back of the North Wind. These photographs document his journey “beyond the Boreas” (the North Wind) to the “primordial, virgin forest” of Portland, Oregon, to the dilapidated palaces and haunted natural history museums of St. Petersburg, Russia and finally, to the stark ruins of the Gulags themselves. Creating a dreamscape on the geographical and metaphorical sites of Hyperborea, the artist released giant clouds of red smoke to represent the collective unconscious.

Exploring “the tension between the actual and the potential,” Anton Ginzburg’s photographs, video installations, and site-specific works will be exhibited as part of the 54th Venice Biennale at the Palazzo Bollani through November 27, 2011. Click through for a preview. … Read More

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