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Folk tales: Russia through the lens of a Hong Kong photographer

During a five-year stint in Russia, photographer Justin Jin documented a nation going through profound, and sometimes painful, changes

 

''I was fascinated when I visited Russia in 1988 as a 14-year-old student on a school exchange trip," says Hong Kong photographer Justin Jin (www.justinjin.com). "It was the height of perestroika [the movement towards reform under then-president Mikhail Gorbachev], and it opened my eyes to concepts of freedom and change.

"In my adult life, as I shuttled back and forth between China and Europe for work and family visits, I always looked out of the airplane window and longed to explore this vast land of snow, forest and vodka."

And explore he did. From 2006 to 2011, Jin lived in Russia, documenting a great nation, and the world's largest, in a time of flux. What he found most intriguing was "the incredible light and medieval darkness that surround Russia and its people".

"Upon arrival," says the photographer, who now lives in Brussels, Belgium, "Moscow was like a concrete wall: hard, brutal and impenetrable. But behind it are amazingly intelligent, thoughtful and open people who are ready to drink with you and be friends for the night, or for life.

"The society follows a logic and moral code that is quite different to what I know in Europe or Asia," says Jin, perhaps explaining why the country appears so out of step with many others in its treatment of homosexuals and why it has come down so hard on the Greenpeace activists who protested near a Gazprom-owned oil rig and now face up to 15 years in jail for "piracy".

Presented here are some of most compelling images Jin took during his stay in Russia.

 

 

 

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