Saturday, 3 July 2010

Moscow Streets - Prelude to a film series.

In order to understand what its like to film in Moscow or just be in Moscow, on the streets, squares and boulevards, one needs to get a feel of the atmosphere in Moscow in those early days of 1995. Its very different now, garishly neon lit cityscape's which have displaced the dark dusty streets and yards which existed at that time. It was said that up to perestroika you could walk from one end of Moscow to another without having to cross a road. You simply moved form one courtyard to another. I would walk around Moscow for days on end sometimes as I had little else to do in that early time when I hardly knew anybody. The winter dust of early March blew around my cheeks and filled my nose with a fine stinging compound, thick in its icy consistency. The snow had all melted away but the cold air contained the eroded particles from a city that was busily fending off decay as best it could and as it still does, although now the resources are more adequate for building glass and stone monsters which are rising sheer into the Moscow skies. I walked back from a trip to the supermarket "Three Fat Men" with a miserable depressive gait, absorbing the sight of yellow and cracked masonry and dull chipped black railings of the low buildings which had been unable to endure the winter and seemed to sag under layer upon layer of winter silt left behind by the melted snow. The grey and heavy weather added to the muted atmosphere. No clouds overhead, simply a misty canopy, more like rising steam than clouds. But in all this was Moscow's heavy beauty which could bear down on ones consciousness like a cruel mistress. However this benumbing beauty was only one facet of the whole edifice, and I can show you other facets. For the time being it was all I could see and feel and it left me with an aching wonder at the enormity of the grinding vision which was opening up before me seeming to surround me with a phantasmagorical landscape of sweet deterioration which I loved all the more for its air of decay and bleakness. This was not the dream of most of Moscow's residents. They aspired to other visions of Moscow, lighter and gentler but at that time, wrapped in its post perestroika mantel, it was the reality for most of the inhabitants of Moscow and for me.


  1. Vivid and exciting .... a view into a world I barely know

  2. Thanks for commenting. I'm never quite sure when writing about Moscow and not everybody understands its strange allure. This is the first time I have written anything personal about my early days in Moscow-in fact this refers to the first few days of my arrival here over fifteen years ago-so your comments are appreciated. Its more or less the starting point of the film series I have made about the Russian avant-garde, although I didn't know that at the time. Filming the series took me all over Moscow following in the footsteps of people like Alexander Rodchenko who tramped across Moscow photographing the new visual realities of that time. Thanks once again