"...Once, I came across a book, which for some reason slipped my attention in the past. It was Fyodor Dostoevsky’s early stories...I opened the book at random; the story – “White Nights”– captivated me so fully that I kept reading it over and over again. Dostoevsky seemed to have read my thoughts. Deeply inspired by this piece, I decided to make a new series of photographs based on the story. For the epigraph, I took the following citation from the story:
"There are, Nastenka, though you may not know it, strange nooks in Petersburg. It seems as though the same sun that shines for all Petersburg people does not peep into those spots, but some other different, new one, as if bespoken expressly for those nooks, and it throws a different light on everything. In these corners, dear Nastenka, a quite a different life is lived, quite unlike the life that is surging round us. But such as perhaps exists in some unknown realm, not among us in our serious, overserious, time. Well, that life is a mixture of something purely fantastic, feverently ideal, with something (alas! Nastenka) dingly prosaic and ordinary, not to say incredibly vulgar… Listen Nastenka. Let me tell you that in these corners live strange people – dreamers.*"
*Dostoevsky, Fyodor. White Nights. London: Heinemann, 1970, p. 15. Translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett.
From an interview with SHOTS magazine, 2005
It would be en error to consider my photographs within the context of the values now fashionable in the arts in general and photography in particular. To align them with such and such a trend, without taking into account that their very purpose in existing is defined by the past.
Even the most factual of them are not a reportage, but a novel. The principal motivation for their creation is, in fact, always the same: Russia's history throughout the 20th century, which is an unending series of tragedies of ever more baffling dimensions, whether you consider the wars, the famines or the so-called times of peace. The history of Russia... but in the form of rather contemporary images, made in a single location, a single city - Saint-Petersburg.
Rather than the city (which is mostly only vaguely visible), these photos represent emotion - the range of emotions forming the deep inner character of the people who lived in this country and endured all these disasters, people who were usually only represented FROM OUTSIDE.
And it is therefore these emotions which, in themselves, are quite general and have remained unchanged in the course of the century, like the emotions aroused by the music of Shostakovich, for example, or by the novels of Solzhenitsin, which are the true subject of my photographs, and my goal would be to convey them to the viewer, to make him or her feel them ... understand ... to feel compassion and...love. – Alexey Titarenko