Russia's foreign students

I went to Russia in 2004 to pursue my university studies. My intended field was in computer aided design, but soon I discovered my true passion: photography. I became more involved in photography and photojournalism after attending the Festival for Young Photojournalists in Hanover, Germany. After viewing such strong stories at the festival, I felt the need to grab a camera and record everything around me. So that’s how I started.

When I went back to Russia, I enrolled in the St. Petersburg Faculty of Photojournalism Galperin, and for my first ever serious project I chose to record what was around me – my life as a foreign student in Russia. This turned out to be the final project for my first year of photojournalism studies, but I couldn’t stop even after completing the assignment. I kept taking pictures of myself, my fellow foreign friends and other unknown foreign students. I kept pursuing this project until my final year in St. Petersburg.

While working on this project, I discovered a wonderful organization, the documentary photography network Liberty.SU, that helped me put together a small multimedia presentation with photographs and interviews depicting life in Russia as a foreigner. I’d like to give special thanks to Katya Bogachevskaya for her help. You can see the video that came out of this collaboration here (remember to set the english captions by pressing the “CC” button).

Three years after starting this project, I started editing my work, which wasn’t an easy task due to the amount of pictures and my close relationship with each of them. To begin my story I chose to put a photograph that would represent the whole scope of the idea: a grid of Russian student IDs with foreign faces on them.


During the story, I decided to play with a bit of contrasts:

warmth – cold.

Violence – love.

Sometimes, I felt the necessity of including more abstract photographs which show my state of mind at that moment. The purpose was not to be more artistic, I simply wanted to show what was going on my head, my thoughts and how I felt right then, since this was a personal story.

This was my first photojournalistic story ever, and I know it may have some mistakes, as I was not able to always “kill my darlings” (as photographer Pieter Ten Hoopen once said), but I think it’s a decent beginning in the visual storytelling business.

Part of this project was included in the collective show “The young man in the XXI century” (Riga, Latvia – 2010) and in “Young photographers of Russia” (Moscow, Russia – 2010).

In Ecuador, it was published in the Vanguardia magazine in October, 2011.

And finally, in Russia it was published in the on-line edition of the Moscow based journal Bolshoi Gorod in May, 2012.