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Photo51: Is Corruption in Russia's DNA? / Misha Friedman

December 2012

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk
Tuesday December 18, 2012, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Peter Klebnikov, Chief Editor, Environmental Defense Fund

Like threads of DNA spiraling in ladder formation, Russia’s reliance on corruption for its basic functioning is both commonplace and breathtaking. Starting this project, I knew I did not want the aggressive expressions of corruption; I could avoid ostentatious nightclubs, would not need to listen at keyholes, nor to sniff out connections with criminals. Really, all I needed was Russia itself. And once I got to St. Petersburg and Moscow, to little towns in Karelia and the Urals, it took no more than a drive or a walk to see it manifested everywhere: the grove of birches banded delicately with crime-scene tape; the crew setting up the Scarlet Sails festival; even a lone car driving down a curving road at night. There’s a joke Russians tell: “The city is great, it’s just that this neighborhood is bad.” My aim for this work is start a conversation about why that is funny. How is it that Russians think themselves exempt from the problem of corruption, with everything being government’s fault? One way of talking about it is with pictures; I think of Photo 51, the breakthrough X-ray diffraction image shot in 1952 that provided researchers with a way to model the structure of DNA. To me, Photo51 signals photography’s power to draw out what is latent and make it visible. I want to employ this power and begin to identify corruption’s warping effect on Russian society’s DNA.


~ as written down by Anna Van Lenten


MISHA FRIEDMAN is a New York-based photographer with a background in economics and international relations. After years working for humanitarian NGOs, he is now pursuing social documentary photography projects in Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.


All photos © Misha Friedman.

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