Foto project “Somewhere There’s war. Moscow and St. Petersburg in spring 2022”

Pavel Mirniy


This project was created primarily as a reaction to the war in Ukraine or, as it is called in Russia, a “special operation”. After the first month of the war, when the shock and stupefaction had passed, when I managed to free myself a little bit from the obsessive thoughts about family and friends under fire in Ukraine, from worries about where to find and how to deliver vital medicines and food for them, thoughts and working ideas gradually began to clear up.


For this project I purposely used a children’s digital camera with poor resolution. I did not set out to create a technically perfect picture. I was interested in documenting the surrounding reality and the events that have already happened and are still happening in Moscow and St. Petersburg after February 24. Often the resulting picture reflected an atmosphere of uncertainty about tomorrow. It seems to me that people in my neighbourhood and myself after the outbreak of war have been living in this state of uncertainty.


The use of a child’s camera as a working tool also means bringing children into the frame. These images reflect, in my opinion, the tradition of the systematic involvement of future citizens in the militarist agenda from an early age.


All the photographs are printed on special thermal paper using the same children’s camera. This is the type of paper that each of us receives at the checkout at the shop after any purchase. There is also a lot of symbolism here for me. “Cheque tape” seems to me a perfect metaphor for the colossal war budgets and financial losses caused by war.


The diagonal perspectives, slants and unusual angles in the photographs make a reference to the techniques of the classics of Soviet photography of the 1930s, Alexander Rodchenko, Boris Ignatovich and others. The same techniques were used by Soviet photographers taking pictures during the war.


Because of the war, sanctions and new repressive laws in Russia, many left the country. Some, on the other hand, have decided to stay. Many support the “special operation” now in its fourth month. The current situation is the culmination of a militarisation of the country, the result of the crude use of history to justify current actions.


The authorities are trying to control the language. The word “war” has all but disappeared from the spoken word. People have stopped pronouncing the word out loud and are trying to hide their pain and anxiety behind a variety of euphemisms. Rarely, in conversations in safe “kitchens” as in old Soviet times, people are more frank.


There is a maddening tension in the air, an air of anxiety, dissonance and uncertainty. All these emotions and feelings were at their most acute in May, during celebration of the next anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War. I had a feeling that in the fateful year 2022 the war, which ended 77 years ago, and the one which started in February, merged into one event, forming a single memory field.


Most people in my circle of contact have no idea what to do next, what the future holds. In this situation of confusion and uncertainty, I think it’s important to keep doing what you’re doing. For me, as a photographer, that means trying to record a series of events and images in any way I can. At the very least, this work helps me not to lose my own mind.


When you walk down a busy street and see “NO WAR” written on the wall, you realise you’re not alone, there’s hope for a peaceful future. I hope that my photos will give a glimpse of anti-war graffiti to all those who haven’t found it on the streets of their own cities. Will help everyone in Russia who opposes the war to understand that he or she is not alone. But the most important thing I wanted to say is that right now this monstrous war must end.


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