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Diary of a Lawyer in Moscow I

I began to photograph in earnest when I was a lawyer working in Moscow in the 1990's just after the break up of the Soviet Union. Wandering around the streets in between client meetings and in lunch breaks, this brave new world of wild capitalism was just crying out to be captured in some form. Taking pictures may have been a lazier option than keeping a diary. I rather wish I had done both, but one was better than nothing. I processed the film back at my flat, and set up a rudimentary enlarger and darkroom in the bathroom. Sourcing paper and chemicals and all the other necessaries was a challenge at a time when I had to cross Moscow to find a drinkable carton of milk.

But looking back I think some of the pictures were interesting. I've picked out a few here, and, so as not to overload with too many at one go, will post a few more in one or two other posts.

Terrorist attack? Revolution? Mafia hit? Horrendous road accident? Actually none of these, the explanation is more Russian and prosaic. This was the scene that greeted me when I went out of the office door one lunchtime. The owner of the van had been refuelling, while multitasking by enjoying a quiet cigarette. He managed to partially melt the cars next to him too. It must have been an expensive fag : to paraphrase the title of a popular film, in those days "Moscow doesn't believe in insurance":-


Let Sleeping Dogs Lie


And, errr, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie again. A not uncommon sight around lunchtime in Moscow:


Flautist, Petersburg:


Mermaids in Odessa

One of the first things you can't fail to notice, if you visit Odessa, is that the girls are rather spectacular - and made up and dressed to the nines. When Mark Twain arrived in Odessa he was delighted that there were "no sights to see and that I had nothing to do but to idle about the city and enjoy myself", which consisted of walking around the city streets, eating ice cream and admiring the people. Deribasovskaya Street is the main thoroughfare for this activity, full of people wandering up and down doing exactly that. The habit of display goes beyond the teen years:-


Postcard from Odessa

I've begun scanning the first few pictures. Here's a taste, more to come.

Russians - or Ukrainians - have a weakness for reliving old Soviet films as part of their lifestyle. Much of their love for drinking vodka in the banya (bath house) is inspired by Ryazanov's "S Lyokhkim Parom" or "Ironiya Sudby" (An Irony of Fate).

Another curiosity is the habit of wearing Captain's hats at the seaside in general and in Odessa in particular, as worn by the heros of quite a few cult Soviet films, such as the 1976 Ilf and Petrov classic "The Twelve Chairs". Ilf and Petrov themselves were from Odessa, and there is even a statue of a bronze chair in the city centre in their honour.

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