From Russia with mixed feelings

For about a fortnight in June last year, Amalia Sotiropoulou?s lens captured a series of images reflecting an imposing country?s past and present. It was White Nights season in Russia and the photographer?s camera traveled from landmark institutions to impromptu moments of daily life.

A small church in the Kremlin, an escalator in the Moscow Metro, street vendors outside the grandiose Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, but also a beaming bride dancing her first dance as a married woman and a self-portrait of the artist posing alongside a Lenin-look-alike, are all but a few of the pictures that make up ?Russia,? a photographic project currently on display at the Skoufa Gallery in Athens.

Born in Athens, Sotiropoulou?s interest in the medium goes back to her adolescence. In the early 1990s she attended courses at the Photography Circle, a club for shutterbugs founded by Platon Rivellis, and subsequently participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions.

On the eve of the exhibition?s opening, Sotiropoulou spoke to Kathimerini English Edition.

Why did you choose Russia? How familiar were you with the country?s culture and history?

I was not familiar with the culture or the history. My exhibition titled ?New York-New York? had just finished and I was looking for an antithesis.

What do you think makes Russia so appealing?

I would say its history as well as the contrast between the rich and the poor.

Did the project meet your expectations? Did you come across as many cliches as you did surprises?

Yes, it exceeded my expectations. The amazing surprise was the scarcity of smiles on peoples faces.

You observed the country as a tourist. Your photos, however, go beyond the tourist element and acquire a documentary quality. Would you agree?

I try to take photos from a different perspective, a more artistic one.

How was the Russia experience compared to your previous project which focused on New York City?

They were two very different experiences. People in New York City are very open, while people in Russia are very closed.

In this age of mobile phone images, what do you think is the power and, at the same time, the weakness of the art of photography?

The power lies in that you can exhibit your work at the right moment and the weakness is that everything can be copied. Today?s fast pace makes people copy each other and that destroys creativity.

Skoufa Gallery, 4 Skoufa, Kolonaki, tel 210.364.3025/360.3541. To February 8.