Holidays make me want to photograph everything and everyone pretty. No street photography but still images of joy and happiness that will linger in your memory for quite some time… Or at least till the next holiday season.
Suddenly I find myself missing my morning drives through Ukrainian villages….
…Indian summer and light cobwebs in the air. Endless fields full of freshly-cut green grass. Silhouettes of the trees and bushes hiding in a daze of a morning mist. And thousands of golden rows of ripe corn.
That’s how I will always remember these drives….
When I think of China I picture busy streets with endless factories full of tiny workers sewing day and night. I don’t imagine tall tranquil buildings covered by fog or pollution as I discovered.
Shanghai, where tradition meets modern, aims to beat Beijing and wants to compete with Hong-Kong. For some reason the modern felt fake, so I focused on plain and forgotten – simple colors of the buildings, river, and cold winter sky.
Leaving Shanghai and on the way to Xian. Thinking that I will be riding Maglev (high-speed train) to my destination, I smile. Imagine my disappointment when I was faced with the reality of an old Soviet looking train!
“Traditional Chinese toilet,” – a train attendant points to my cart. – “Western bathroom is next door.”
Glad that I brought a roll of Western toilet paper, I think to myself and buy a few bottles of wine from the attendant. It will be a long ride.
A call to prayer woke me up. Dark, like a Turkish night, voice was beautifully signing in Arabic. I opened my window and set watching the sky starting to change its colors above the Blue Mosque. Sunrise. I felt tears running down my face. Tears of peace and unity with the universe.
Later that morning I stroll down the street in Sultanahmed to the Blue Mosque. At the entrance, I take off my shoes and cover myself with a scarf. Blue ceramic tiles and light welcome me to the sacred world of a foreign to me religion. Tourist are mixed with the locals who are quietly praying on a red carpet during the first day of Ramadan.
This is totally not what I expected. Most of what I’ve heard and read about Muslims is their devotion to Islam. But here it’s business as usual and Ramadan appears to be more of a tradition rather than a religious obligation. And it’s beautiful. Not only because of the festive atmosphere in the evenings in Sultanahmed but also because it’s not forced.
Across the lawn, facing the Mosque, Hagia Sophia hosts both Christianity and Islam under one roof. I wonder if that’s where Ukrainian King Volodymyr studied religion and brought Christianity back to his country. I wonder if Roksolana, a stolen Ukrainian girl who later became sultan Suleiman’s wife and together with him ruled Ottoman Empire, came to this half-church, half- mosque to ask all gods for strength.
Mystery and history is what attracts me to this city that connects Asia with Europe. To my surprise, I find familiar tastes and colors probably because centuries ago Turks kept invading Ukraine, stealing its women and selling them into Turkish harems.
Till today they are partial to Ukrainian girls.
“Natasha” – they refer to me in Russian. I pretend not to understand.
Watching sunset on Bosporus becomes my favorite activity after long days of exploring. Full of sailing, fishing, and motor boats it seems to be always alive. I take a ferry to the Princes’ islands and escape the city. Just for a brief moment. As I miss it already.
“Рио-де-Жанейро, — это хрустальная мечта моего детства”
~ Ostap Bender
As a true former Soviet citizen, I was too in love with Brazil. Growing up with the characters from Escrava Isaura, a famous Brazilian soap, I dreamt of falling in love with Alvaro and running away to Rio.
I saw Brazilians as any other fellow comrade of that time did – pursuing happiness and prosperity without working hard. Not a fan of gloomy weather, 5 year communistic plans, and grey standard uniform-like itchy clothes, I secretly envied cariocas. I aspired to stroll along Ipanema, wearing a white linen dress and covering my golden tan with a light-green umbrella.
When I saw Rio for the first time – my dream materialized. I fell in love with the city’s soul and opportunistic spirit coursing through the carioca nation.
Nation that masterly moved their sensual bodies to the rhythms of samba, managed to create a colorful blend of poor and rich within one city guarded by Cristo Redentor.
Chic places welcomed me with a polite Portuguese baritone while favelas hid their poverty under the bright paint strokes. What amazed me the most is a tremendous potential of Rio. Strategically well positioned, the city is yet to experience its major economic boom. The real question is whether stereotypical carioca culture so specific to Rio will embrace that change… and by following the golden rush will it remain true to its simpático core….
But these are the worries for tomorrow. Today I’d rather live in a moment of sunrise and pray to the Brazilian God.
Difficult not to feel sentimental and patriotic around the 9/11 memorial. Massive waterfalls shed thousands of tears into the darkness of those moments that will remain alive in our hears for eternity.
Hiding its sorrows, American spirit is not that easily broken and despite the economic crisis, construction bulls are running down the streets. It is busy on the intersection of Greenwich and Albany. I suddenly feel lucky to have been imported to the land of endless optimism.
I’m addicted to emotions and absolutely love photographing random expressions.
I landed in Habana in a complete darkness. A few dim lights indicated that a runway was somewhere around. By taking a time-machine flight to the communism in 50′s, I could re-live the history again – old Soviet cars, old regime, even an old motorcycle with a side car similar to the one my grandfather owned. I could take a ride along Malecon and enjoy the sea. No wonder Hemingway wrote such depressing stories – what was there to be happy about when idealism destroyed Habana’s beauty.
The Lost City. Inhaling cigars’ aroma with a twist of bittersweet coffee, walking down the colonial streets, I drown in the sentiments of old romance. This is a place where I could fall in love. Once. And forever.
Culturally and architecturally, the city has many layers that are covered under a thick coat of communism. Perestroyka is yet to come. The only place on this island that allows private ownership is the legendary Vedado cemetery. It is well-kept and filled with many enigmatic legends. Like the tomb of a lady with a baby. Believed to be miraculous and visited by many who ask for their wish to come true. Ironically enough, I could not come up with even one clear request. My thoughts stumbled and suddenly I realized that my lost dancing soul is on an eternal quest to understand what it means to be happy.
“I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life to preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph.” Henri-Cartier Bresson
Bresson’s ability to capture a moment in a perfect combination of light, color, expression, and emotion is truly amazing. Each time I look at his timeless images I cannot help but notice something new. I’m not interested in photographing perfectly choreographed poses full of stiff smiles. I’m intrigued by lifting the covers and discovering the core of one’s soul.