This work is an exploration of the adaptation to consumer culture by the Russian Federation and how it is faring within the complex global economic picture of the early 21st century. I am interested in examining these phenomena in the regions of Russia that were completely inaccessible to outsiders until the mid 1990's. These photographs were made over a six-month period on a Fulbright Scholarship/Residency in the Far East region of Russia.
In my other work and projects I explore how advertising theory and consumerism have been absorbed into the psyche and culture of America and the West. It seems a natural progression to investigate how the issues are playing out in areas relatively newer to it.
I have focused upon Russia for a few reasons. This was the Evil Empire to my generation of Americans. I grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation by the Russians as our particular contemporary phobia. But, upon reflection on my part, Russia was not an enemy at all; to a large extent it functioned as a point of comparison and vehicle for self-regard by Americans. Besides trying to outdo each other as the perceived superpower of the planet, I remember an intense American interest, obsession almost, in all things Russian: art, technology, sports teams and athletes, weapons, rockets and astronauts, scientists, technology and industry, ballet dancers, spies, KGB, and so on. With all of this they were not simply our official competitors, they were a sort of inverse mirror to Americans and had a great deal of influence upon how we saw ourselves.
While in Russia, I was based in Vladivostok, approximately four thousand miles east of Moscow, home of the Russian Pacific fleet, the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and for most of the 20th century, totally closed off not only to foreigners but to other Russians as well.