INTERVIEW

Yuri Rost:

I love this city…

Yuri Rost is perhaps the most famous photographer in Russia, the winner of many awards and titles. For half a century now he has been taking pictures of famous and regular people. Every one of his photos has a story behind it - short or long, funny or sad. His collection includes shots of thousands of Muscovites. In an interview with Capital Ideas, Yuri Rost talked about Moscow and the philosophy behind his art.

-I am from Kiev, but have been living and working in Moscow for over half a century. I love this city, especially during the summer and early in the morning, when there are no cars or people outside. It is a fantastic city, especially the Boulevard Ring. I love the area around Chistiye Pudy, which is where I live.

Sometimes I go by foot, but on Sundays I get on my motorcycle and ride through the center. I look around and think about how much the city has changed...I like Pokrovka, for example. It has become extremely beautiful and comfortable. There is a lot of greenery. The sidewalks are convenient. There are restaurants and cafes everywhere with Muscovites casually chatting over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. It’s a calm, joyful street.

I also love the remnants of Bely Gorod left on Ivanovskaya Gorka, in Khokhlovsky Pereulok. There are really old buildings there, such as Ukraintsev’s chambers, which were erected way back in the 17th century. I love these two-story buildings.

I have to admit that I didn’t take many pictures of cities, since that’s almost a completely different profession. I did portraits, including portraits of Muscovites. They are the most precious thing in our city. These portraits include photographs of people I am very close to - Galina Ulanova, faina Ravenvskaya, Andrey Sakharov, Bulat Okudzhava, Otar Iosseliani, Natalia Nesterova, Bella Akhmadulina, Marina Neyolova, Viktor Shklovsky and Aleksei Losev. Along with famous people, there are photos of regular farmers, children, seniors, athletes, soldiers and workers. I really treasure the portrait of Uncle Grisha, a shoemaker from Tverskaya.

My photographs depict people that I have accepted. They can exist anywhere, because they are, before anything else, residents of our planet. Their nationality, language and religion are secondary. All of the photos of famous people focus on their humanity.

I have to love the person. Or they must be very interesting to me. I won’t photograph just anything. I’ve never been a cheap sell-out with a camera, even when I worked for a newspaper. All the work I’ve done, I’ve done with love.

Initially, I thought of the following concept – photographing people in the environment they are used to, which they spend their lives in. This is why I never use stage lighting. I don’t think a person should be separated from the environment they exist in. This is why, although a lot of my photographs aren’t perfect in terms of technique, they stay true to the person’s nature. I don’t photograph the person, but rather my perception of them.

Photography is an intimate thing, and in some ways can be considered legalized theft. If a person is looking at me, into the camera, they are entering into a contract of sorts with me. I am standing between the audience and this person. So if the person I am photographing is interacting with me, they will also be interacting with the audience that will see this piece.

I wasn’t interested in limiting myself to only pictures of people, and I wasn’t making money this way. I made a sort of pact – I married the photos with text. Often, the photo is an illustration to the text, as opposed to the text serving as an explanation of the photo. Language is very important to me, and the photographs were often taken while I was talking to the subject.

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