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Is Corruption in Russia’s DNA?

A Moldavia-born photographer documents the great Bear's way with staggering abstraction

Moldova-born, New York-based documentary photographer Misha Friedman recently highlighted the rampant corruption of contemporary Russia in an exhibition at a Soho exhibition space, 287 Spring. Capturing everyday scenarios with a panoramic lens, Friedman underscores the paranoia and arrogance of the realities of debased social networks and their accompanying environments. In the Photo51: Is Corruption in Russia’s DNA? series, Friedman questions whether corruption in Russia has become an institution unto itself. Ivan Savvine, 287 Spring’s curator and a Russian émigré himself, noted, ‘I thought these images were arresting and haunting, and at the same time reflected the modern Russian reality, as I remembered it, so aptly. I believe Misha’s work is unique both as photographic journalism and photographic art, combining visual aesthetics and powerful meaning in a subtle, yet striking way’. Indeed, Friedman’s corruption series not only captures arresting moments, but begs the audience to delve deeply into the social constructions which he observes.

The sponsor behind the corruption exhibition, Pavel Khodorkovsky, a son of the jailed Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and President of the Institute of Modern Russia explained, ‘We wanted to create a series of strong and thought-inspiring images that not only show Russia's decrepit nature but illustrate the detached nonchalance with which it is perceived with by Russian society. The scale of corruption present in Russia's day-to-day activities and state of mind is a topic worth examining.’ Khodorkovsky continued, ‘In order to facilitate positive change, it is important to first acknowledge and investigate the reason behind of this blatant disregard by the Russian society, a disregard so deeply rooted due to the lack of hope in their ability to make a difference’. I recently caught up with Friedman about this strikingly poetic, melancholic and engaging series which he shares with us.  

Where are you currently living?
I'm living in New York City. My parents moved here from Moldova in 1991, and I stayed here since.

You were formerly working with Doctors Without Borders. How did you make the transition to becoming a photographer?
I always enjoyed photography, and while with Doctors Without Borders I started taking photographs of the projects I worked on.

What sort of training do you have as a photographer?

Your photo51 series strikes me as incredibly poetic in terms of composition. What do you look for when taking a photograph?

A combination of basic composition rules and emotions.

What kind of camera do you use?

Hasselblad Xpan

Much of your work seems to involve sensitive topics. Do you often run into problems when photographing certain subjects?

No, I try to avoid confrontations. I always ask for permission and take photographs openly, especially for this topic.

When shooting do you have a specific story in mind that you wish to convey?

Of course, a particular moment only matters if it tells a story. Anyone can take a pretty photograph but what really matters is to engage audience.

What has been your most memorable photograph to date?

I don’t think I have one.