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17 December 2018

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Everyday Russia

Leningrad Region

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Leningrad Region

by Alexander Solo

Name: Alexander Solo

Age: 39

Profession: Photographer

City: Leningrad Region. I live in Pikalyova.

How long have you been doing photography? What style or genre most interests you? Since childhood. In general, I studied to be an artist, but photography won out. I was too restless to be an artist. But for a photographer restlessness is a virtue.

Can you give us a short description of your city? Where is it located? What is it famous for? Pikalyova is located not far from the St. Petersburg-Vologda road. City-forming enterprises produce alumina and cement.

What is something about your city that only locals would know? In 2008, the cement factory was almost shut down; for a few months people did not receive their salaries. The local union did its job well and organized protest actions. The strikers closed the federal highway that passes near the city, and Putin came and sorted everything out. He is our benefactor. Now everyone in the city is staying put, do not want to leave, and believe that if something happens, Putin will come to their aid. But it's better to live without hope – it forces you to stir, to do something. Now the tendency is to act like this: as soon as there is a production downturn and people start to grumble, they send some people with briefcases, suddenly payrolls are paid and the factory has a state order. In order that there not be an uprising. But what comes of this? Does life get any better? If the factory is making things that no one wants to buy and the goverment forces someone to buy it? Does our life improve as a result?

Which places or sites are a must for someone to see if they visit your city? The ski path that runs along the city's edge. Despite the fact that smoke from smokestacks is visible from there, the air is clean.

The Firebird graffiti. Gleb Tyurin, a businessman and public figure who is committed to the city's development, brought in a famous graffiti artist and he did several paintings throughout the city. They promoted it all nicely; locals scratched their heads for a long time, grumbled and said it was money wasted; in short, they didn't have a clue why they needed it. But soon enough the entire city began to be covered with wall murals by local artists. These are definitely worth checking out.

Anything else you would like to add? I and some other photographers travel the country, and Leningrad Region in particular, in order to tell others about something that is interesting, alive, entertaining and Russian. We want to bring it to life, in order to prove that, first of all, there is something good in our country. Our project "Invisible Cities",  is a documentary project dedicated to Russian industrial towns. There are hundreds of cities in Russia, where life depends on the "city-forming" enterprise. There is a special word for these towns in Russian: моногород (monogorod), combining the words "single" and "town," meaning a single company town.

Personal photo website

Invisible Cities website

Invisible Cities Instagram: @monogoroda


  • Boat

    Water is everywhere in Syasstroy. Rivers Syas and Valgomka flow here. Lake Ladoga and Old Ladoga channel are quite near this town as well. There was a trade route down by the river before, locals lived by fishing and Tsar Peter The Great built ships here. In Soviet times, the Syassky Pulp and Paper Mill was constructed here. But even now many locals have their own boats. The fishing is great here.
    Alexander Solo

  • Shoemaker

    A shoemaker in his shop in Syasstroy. Alexander Solo

  • Pikalevo

    From a distance it seems like they are all alike - smokestacks, workers' quarters... what else? But actually each monotown has its own history, its vital rhythms, amazing destinies of very different people.  Alexander Solo

  • Pipes

    Alumina, aluminum hydrate and limestone are the main products of the BaselCement-Pikalevo Plant. Thus, the workshop area is very dusty. Dusty outside: trees around the factory are always of a fabulous gray-white color. Dusty inside: it's not recommended for a photographer to change his lenses while in the production area, if one doesn't want to ruin the camera's sensor with dust. On the other hand, the head of the town administration is proud that unemployment rate in Pikalevo was less than one percent in 2015.  Alexander Solo

  • Cross Perch

    Boys sitting on a cross. It was installed in Pikalevo in 2014 at the entrance to the city. Now the congregation of Krestovozdvizhenskaya Church (the Church of Holy Cross) is collecting money to build another church in their town, near this worship cross. Those making a donation of more than 500 rubles will receive a certificate for a "name brick" – a brick used to build the church will bear the donor's name. Alexander Solo

  • Sunset

    Syasstroy. Sunset. Alexander Solo

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