Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Gerd Ludwig: What Would Lenin Do?
Gerd Ludwig’s “Moscow Never Sleeps” project takes advantage of the latest digital technology to show a city that has completely changed from the days when the sickle and hammer flew above the Kremlin
Opening night at the Soho Rooms club runs deep into morning as the decadent, the trendy and the simply rich celebrate the latest haunt.
Ludwig remarks that he has returned to Moscow a few more times since his initial assignment for the Geographic. “I’ve continued shooting it at night, mostly with my own money, but also with a small grant from a German organization called Kulturwerks [Culture Works]. I’ve returned to document some of the more extreme, out-of-the-norm lifestyles and am busy right now editing and building the material for a new book.”
I assume some of the more sexually charged pictures from this body of work reveal a newer attitude in Russia. “Actually,” he explains “there was a huge sexual revolution in the ’90s, and I am just catching the tail end of it.”
Ludwig describes the biggest changes he has seen in Moscow lately: “Well, the most obvious change is that it is the most expensive city in the world, followed by London and Tokyo. But what I am experiencing is that there is a serious return to nationalism. You are not welcomed with a camera as a foreigner anymore. Photographing today, as a Westerner, is nearly as difficult as it was in Soviet times. It’s because of the general climate of being disenfranchised and disappointed about the West. There is a growing resentment toward Westerners. The Bush policies have made Americans the bully across the globe, and it will take some time to recover from that. But this is a disappointment that stems from the late ’90s when Russians expected everyone to live like the people in the West. There is a feeling of a loss of real Russian culture that is being overpowered by consumerism.”
Ludwig is a big proponent of what he refers to as participatory photojournalism. “I’m right in there,” he notes.
Adds Ludwig, “I feel that there is a general tendency of demonization of Russians that is going on in America. They feel that they have been made the demons again.”
As if on cue, Ludwig pushes the Forward key on his laptop, and a telling image emerges on the screen. Two women hurry through the street near Red Square; a large billboard invades the left side of the frame with a picture of a woman in a dress running through a city street. It is dusk. The lights of the square glow with different hues in the distance—an afterthought. The women mimic the billboard as their high-fashion coats sway in unison with the image in the advertisement. In older days, there was a fascinating juxtaposition of the country’s economic reality and the display of commercialism. Today, it is as if the people have stepped down from the billboards. The exposure is fast, freezing the furious movement of pedestrians in the background, and a flash illuminates the women and allows competition for attention. The camera’s high ISO setting is sensitive enough to soak in the blue tinge of early night and the radiance of Christmas lights. This is the new Russia. This is the new digital age.
To see more of Gerd Ludwig’s photography, visit www.gerdludwig.com.
Page 4 of 4