Dazed Digital

Moscow / Русский

Anton Akimov & Dima Oparin

March 2, 2012

Exploring Moscow's hidden secrets within the walls of the epic city

  • Text by Kristina Voytovich

Dima Oparin and Anton Akimov are working on a series of articles devoted to Moscow historical houses for Bolshoi Gorod (Big City) Magazine. They turned the city into the research field in order to find out the secrets and memories of the city's walls...

Satellite Voices: How did you start working together?
Dima Oparin:
 The final format of the column was created by the magazine Bolshoi Gorod (Big City). However, the idea of creating a series of articles about Moscow houses came up to me a long time ago. I am an ethnologist, so I often traveled and am still going to the ethnological expeditions. Once I thought we could save the history of not only the villagers, but also the Muscovites. 

Anton Akimov:
 We haven’t known each other before. The magazine invited me to be a photographer for this column. The first house I shot alone, I was just told the address and door code. I have met Dima only at the second house. Each successive shooting became a little adventure. 

SV: Do you have favourite project houses?
Anton Akimov:
 My favourite house is a commune house at Shabolovka. A very unusual family lives here for a long time. They lived in poverty, in the 1960s interior. During the day they turn off their landline phone. I believe they don’t even have a mobile phone. They go to bed for an hour – an hour and a half. This is a rule from year to year. There is always a history inside the house, always a state, even if we do not take pictures of the residents. The walls keep the history.

Dima Oparin:
 I am interested in the houses, which I do not know. You can regularly walk by the same house, and think about its age judging by house’s architecture. During the research, a previously unknown house comes into life. 

SV: What was the main idea behind the project?
Anton Akimov:
 We talk about the houses, which people pass by and know a lot or a little about, in which people live, where you can get in and where you can’t. For me, as a photographer, it was a kind of journey into a new world, each time different one, and you don’t need to go far. The idea is always simple - go further than usual, explore, look and show to those who are interested. 

Dima Oparin: At first, I wanted to write only about those houses that are in a poor condition or going to be demolished. Thus, the topic could attract the attention to the current problem of preserving the architectural heritage and to a particular home. Then I realised that not only this kind of houses deserve attention. Thanks to this project, I have a joyful feeling of saving a memory about the house, about the ordinary residents of unknown old houses.

SV: Do you think the houses define the look of the city? 
Anton Akimov:
Yes they do, for one hundred percent. Moscow consists of buildings, streets, buildings, and people. There are two different places - Moscow as metropolis, and Moscow as city. The city is not as big as a metropolis. The city residents are amazing there but they are not numerous. This is a little bit sad story.

Dima Oparin: I am interested in a pre-revolutionary and early Soviet-period buildings. All of these brick or eclectic apartment buildings, which are neither architectural landmarks, nor the places where Hertsen or Tsvetaeva lived, but which provide the overall rhythm of the old city. There are becoming fewer and fewer the people live in the Moscow center. I believe there should be no offices in the old houses. The offices may be located in the former industrial zones, new office buildings or in the mansions nationalised after 1917. The Muscovites are often forced to move to the outskirts of the city. But there are still the families who live in the same house starting from the 1920-30s, and sometimes even from the pre-revolutionary times. And I really like this rare succession.

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