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August 2011, Russia, again. Togliatti is a city overlooking the Volga river, 800 km east of Moscow: here I was invited to hold workshops and for some photography exhibitions of our own, including the presentation of "Dream in a Mirror", my last project. After a few days the organizers took us to the umpteenth inauguration along with Russian authors in order to visit the exhibition and comment on it onto the journalists.
This time, however, the exhibition venue did not leave me cold like the previous ones. It was an artist's society venue called Solaris, in honor of an old Tarkovski movie.
The first floor in this sort of slum was used to host artistic events and exhibitions, whilst the second floor lodged the artists: it was their home, their laboratory, their inspiration place.
This crumbling place intrigued me so much that I asked the organizers to be taken there once more: I wanted to know those people, have the possibility to speak with them, and to shoot them.
It was not the first time that I could visit the house of an artist in Russia, but this place was peculiar, so much different from all the other ones I had seen till then.
The day after I was again at the Solaris and I was introduced to the artists: they were all painters, I had a long chat with them. I spoke…in a manner of speaking…none of them could actually speak English, therefore we expressed ourselves with gestures and using the most common Italian and English words, the ones nobody requires language classes to know.


I was offered tea, biscuits, and a bag full of apples from their tree to take home.
As often happens in this country, they looked at me as if I came from another planet. Those artists even wanted to save the sheets of paper I had drawn on to express some concepts to them. They were humble people who lived in poverty and very unhygienic conditions, perhaps in a shack which was never cleaned up. But in those evil-smelling rooms something drifted through the air, something mysterious that captivated me, hard to say what, precisely.

After about an hour I asked them to take some shots: I shot these pictures in half an hour before leaving. They vaguely represent that experience, the sensations I felt in there with those people , who lived off of their art, passing their days painting in the hope that somebody would buy their works during the exhibitions organized by the artist's society. Before I left I was given little presents, some of them gave me their pieces of art.
One of them let me understand this: "I give you my painting, thus I will be honored that my work is in Italy".
Therefore, along with my pictures, I also wanted to publish all the precious gifts I received from those artists.
Dear friends, believe me, I was honored to meet you all… We all have so much to learn from you!

(June 2012)  

Technical Note: All motion and deformation effects are obtained during the shooting

Copyright Stefano Bernardoni - All photographs on this site are protected by Copyright laws. - Sept.2000/2013