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Sergey Nikolaev

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Zaporozhye: City by the River

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        Zaporizhzhye is a City by the river for me. The moment I realized that I had found an occupation to my liking, I became a photographer. Where I lived, I took pictures: in a city that I loved and disliked at the same time (for the stifling gas of the factories).
        My first skills in photography were instilled in me by my father. In eighth grade, I finally got a dog, and here I am shooting a dog. Later on, when I was a third-year student at the institute I heard about existence of the photo club in our city and began to attend its meetings regularly. At that time the club members were mainly engaged in salon photography. God only knows how I managed to get on the road of documentary photography. I used to go for a walk with my dog to the Dnieper, but there were only small beams and small shacks; in a word, a village with goats and chickens. I took photos until this countryside world began to fade away. I photographed everything in town: holidays like Victory Day, May Day, November 7, but also dog shows, buggy races, trips from work to the collective farm or to the beach with friends Ц I always had my camera with me. Arranged to shoot at the factory Ц good.
        At some point there was a crisis, and I hardly shot any people for two years. I was saved by a semi-basement that unexpectedly appeared as a new place of work, where I lived secretly, in the creative space of my own underground, and also by Khortitsa Island.
        At the end of the eighties, rallies in defense of ecology began in the city. Numerous factories, most of them polluting industries, were spewing poisonous emissions uncontrollably. Even money was collected in a three-liter jar at a rally in defense of the environment. Obviously, these efforts were not enough, because the factories kept blowing smoke. When I had the opportunity to visit Italy, I often said, "Oh! Look! Look! As we have in Zaporozhye! And a river like the Dnieper and the island of Khortitsa Ц there's nowhere else!" It's a pity I never saw the Dnieper rapids: they were flooded in 1932. Like many other projects of the young USSR, Zaporizhzhya in the 20-30s was built as a City of the Future, but for me it is still a City by the River.

Sergey Nikolaev