Valkorn, that is Moscow-based designer and photographer Vladimir Korneev, who often delights his readers with vintage photo galleries – for example a few days ago he uploaded a brilliant one on the introduction of Кока-Кола and Фанта to the city in the early 80s – recently also published a series on Moscow as it looked thirty years ago.
The pictures are fairly accurately dated on the one hand by the poster of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and on the other hand by Maslyakov’s 1974 Brezhnev poster (“the preservation of peace is one of the main tasks of our state”) whose few examples which, out of forgetfulness, were left on the streets even after 10 November 1982 were surely far from such good conditions.
These images, however, are absolutely not as sterile and banal as we are accustomed to from those years. No doubt, they reflect the shabbiness of the city and its inhabitants as well as the pressing atmosphere of the period, but they also include a shade of that loving and ironic attention which makes Russian photography so attractive – true, not around 1981 but rather in our days.
And no wonder. Because these pictures were taken not in 1981 but thirty years later, in 2009, for the film The Farewell affair which, starring Kusturica, treated one of the greatest spy scandals of the Cold War with an extreme faithfulness in all physical details. Valkorn’s Russian readers invariably confess in their commentaries that until the last images they thought they were looking at real archive photos. This, of course, on a second view changes the meaning of the pictures, and particularly the meaning of this mysterious, distinctively Russian attention to the subject of the picture. It is not the Moscow photographer of the early 1980s who sees his city so awkward and nevertheless so lovable, but the contemporary photographer who portrays the city of the early 80s in a key as he would photograph it now. I wonder how he would have photographed it back then.