Alexey Titarenko received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Department of Cinematic and Photographic Art at Leningrad's Institute of Culture in 1983. He began taking photographs at the beginning of the 1970s, and in 1978 became a member of the well-known Leningrad photographic club Zerkalo, where he had his first solo exhibition (1978).

Since this was creative activity that had no connection with the official Soviet propaganda, the opportunity to declare himself publicly as an artist came only at the peak of Perestroika in 1989 with his "Nomenclature of Signs" exhibition and the creation of Ligovka 99, a photographers' exhibition space that was independent of the Communist ideology.

Titarenko has received numerous awards from institutions such as the Musee de l'Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland; the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg; and the Mosaique program of the Luxemburg National Audiovisual Centre. He has participated in many international festivals, biennales, and projects and has had more than 30 personal exhibitions, both in Europe and the United States.

His works are in the collections of major European and American museums, including The State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg); the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art; George Eastman House (Rochester, N.Y.); the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston); the Museum of Fine Arts (Columbus, Ohio); the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston); the Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego); the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College (Mass.); the European House of Photography (Paris); the Southeast Museum of Photography (Daytona Beach, Fla.); the Santa Barbara Museum of Fine Arts (Cal.); the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University (N.J.); the Reattu Museum of Fine Arts (Arles); and the Musee de l’Elysee Museum for Photography (Lausanne).

Major photo series include "Nomenklatura of Signs" (1986-1991), "City of Shadows" (1992-1994), "Black and White Magic of St. Petersburg" (1995-1997), and "Time Standing Still" (1998-1999). In those series Titarenko paints a bitter picture of a Russia (seen through the lens of St. Petersburg), where people live in a world of unrealized hopes and where time seems to have stopped.

Titarenko's photographic series from the 1990s won him worldwide recognition. In 2002 the International Photography Festival at Arles, France, presented all three series at the Reattu Museum of Fine Arts. The curator of the exhibition entitled "Les quatres mouvements de St.Petersbourg" was Gabriel Bauret.

Two monographs have been published about his work: City of Shadows: Alexey Titarenko by Irina Tchmyreva (2001) and Alexey Titarenko, photographs. Essay by Gabriel Bauret (2003). Soon after being published, this book was nominated for the Best Photographic Book of the Year Prize (International Arles Festival, France 2004).
In 2005, the French-German TV Channel Arte produced a 30-minute documentary about Titarenko entitled "Alexey Titarenko: Art et la Maniere."