St. Petersburg: Right through the very heart of it

"All my best photos happen randomly: sometimes you're working the whole day and get nothing good, sometimes you're just wandering around with a camera and all of a sudden you catch that moment."

"All my best photos happen randomly: sometimes you're working the whole day and get nothing good, sometimes you're just wandering around with a camera and all of a sudden you catch that moment."

Alexander Petrosyan
Every town has its own artist. New York has Woody Allen. Dublin boasts of James Joyce and Paris of Robert Doisneau. Photographer Alexander Petrosyan of St. Petersburg captured something special in the big-city bustle, and is ready to share these authentic "St. Pete" moments with RBTH readers.
Alexander has been shooting his beloved city for 15 years, ever since taking up photography as a job in 2000.
"The climate here is quite severe, that's why there's no vibrant street life. St. Petersburg is not India or Cuba, here people just move from a to b," Petrosyan says.
"Often everything looks routine: cheerless passers-by in a hurry, nothing extraordinary going on. But that makes the moments of joy, excitement, or any pure emotion all the more valuable."
Alexander compares himself to a fisherman. "If you just capture reality as it is, it becomes interesting only after many years, but from a purely ethnographic point of view."
Winter, which sometimes lasts till early April in this part of Russia, doesn't get him down: "The best time is when you feel the harmony, then everything works."
For those interested in photojournalism, he recommends the book "The Decisive Moment" by Henri Cartier-Bresson. "It covers the basics. Years later I learned many technical aspects and psychological tricks, of course."
"I travel a lot, but usually don't share pictures from my journeys." The eye of a tourist is less thoughtful, less accurate. It gives only fleeting, fragmentary impressions."
The best place to experience St. Pete is obviously its historical center. "I don't feel the city when I'm in the suburbs. They're so uniform and monotonous, you could be in Moscow or Novosibirsk."
The center, which is just a few dozen square miles, is so familiar. "It feels like home. I know every corner," he says.
Sometimes it's difficult because the eye gets used to the surroundings, but in moments of despair surprises always crop up.
As for time-traveling, Petrosyan remains true to his native environment. "With my experience it would be interesting to go back to Leningrad in the 70s and 80s, which I remember from growing up. But this time with my camera."
Petrosyan's photoalbum is coming out soon. It is called "Kunstkamera" (Cabinet of Curiosities) after the famous St. Petersburg museum with its collection of anomalies collected by Peter the Great.
It shows St. Petersburg and its inhabitants in all their colors: kind and naive, evil and scary, buffoons and holy fools.
"It's a collection of paradoxes. Some are bound to be grotesque and absurd, there's no helping that."
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