Everything Depends

Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously




Vicious Acts of Boredom

Dance Class

ZIL House of Culture

Knights Templar

jurong rock caverns singapore

God Can Divide by Zero

uzbekistan refugees

Uzbek refugees, Andijan, June 2010.



Tsirk — Circus

africans in russia

A triptych of scenes from one the Soviet Union’s most popular films of all time Circus, in Russian Tsirk, the story of a female American Circus performer, shamed in the US by her illegitimate black child. She flees to Moscow and after a few ups and downs finds love and racial harmony in the Utopian state.


africans in russia


russian gypsy girl


africans in russia

One of the scars left from a racist knife attack that left the liver punctured. The psychological scars are not so easily photographed.

Back, Shoulder, Ash

africans in russia

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In The Bush

africans in russia

Is a bum just a bum, regardless of skin color? In Russia no. Homeless blacks are few and far between with problems unique to their group. Getting to the bottom how and why they came to live on the street requires a special dictionary of tact translating fractured mixed-language euphemisms, delicate dreams and confused emotions into an honest account. Keywords repeat with sign and signifier occasionally outwitting each other.  Refugee, bureaucracy, documents, escape, freedom, rights, negro, black, war, UN, slave, job, passport, racism, registration, vodka, rent, bathe, human ………..

Genna Meets Tolya

africans in russia

This image, that I like for Genna’s profile, comes from the scene where Genna first meets Tolya. Here the fighters feel each other out in the first round of their bout. As Tolya is significantly older we have a battle of young vs old, or experience vs naivety as well as black vs white, or us vs them. That a child is used as the point of entry into the discussion on racism should not be overlooked. Cuteness is an easy tool for generating sympathy. Like the Russian girls in the film who find Genna adorable, the viewer is encouraged to feel the same. Does it work?

Taking at face value that the film aims to raise awareness of racism in contemporary Russia. A contradiction arises in that Genna’s cuteness precludes him from being a serious subject. While the subject is not trivial, the main character is, and there is less of a compulsion to take racism seriously.

Gagarin’s Grandson – Van Gogh

africans in russia

What can I say, the choice of placing Genna with an artist as adopted parent immediately condemned my appreciation of the film as cliche. Why does Fedya have to be an artist? He could  be anything, truck driver, banker, anyone. By the law of averages he should be some type of engineer, but no. He is a spiritual adviser, a missionary whose artistic calling is meant to uplift Genna by teaching him to cherish the sublime.

In today’s Russia only an artist with creative personality, on the fringe of the mainstream with an outsider’s outlook on life is capable of proper interaction with a black kid. After all suffering is the way to achievement in art. Increasing the the artist’s burden is an even more surefire way to salvation. Is that what we are meant to understand?

Van Gogh who lopped off his ear to a higher cause is an obvious choice for turning Genna the ignorant miscreant into Genna the enlightened. The complex mysterious personality, the suffering, these are things Genna can relate to as an outcast. Genna is not shown a diamond encrusted skull of Damien Hirst, nor a monograph of Turner Prize winners. A false syllogism is being propagated, you who suffer Genna, are an artist such as he, you just haven’t quite understood it until now.

Africans in Soviet and Russian Films

africans in russia

I am going to begin looking at popular perceptions and ideas about Africa contained in Soviet-era and modern Russian films.  I will post TV screen photographs and my commentary on what I find important, or what it seems the filmmaker thought was important.

This is image is from Gagarin’s Grandson. In addition I plan post images and analysis from Maximka, Circus, Little Vera, Fifteen-Year-Old Captain, Little Red Devils if I can find a copy, and anything else that gets uncovered in the process.

Topol-M Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

africans in russia

A Russian Topol-M ICBM drives down Moscow’s central avenue Ulitsa Tverskaya in preparation for the May 9 Victory Day parade celebrating the end of WII. This picture is really about three guys enjoying looking at an awesome piece of military hardware. I’m hard pressed to find the Africans in Russia angle beyond the actual fact.

Africans in Russia

africans in russia

Hello world! Welcome to the first ever post on the Asylum in Bardak blog. Check here for photo and story updates from an ongoing documentary project about the lives of Africans in Russia.

The Feminine Mystique

eckels fashion

Against The Day


“See every photographic subject moves,” Roswell explained, “even if it’s standing still. It breathes, light bounces off, something. Snapping a photograph is like what the math professors call ‘differentiating’ an equation of motion—freezing that moment into the very small piece of time it takes the shutter to open and close.  So we figured—if shooting a photo is like taking a first derivative, then maybe we could find some way to to do the reverse of that, start with the still photo and integrate it, recover its complete primative and release it back into action… even back into life…”

Thomas Pynchon


yemeni camel

The long shutter speed seemed appropriate to the cud chewer. It’s the shutter speed of drawl. Imagine shutter speeds regulated to a body function — pulse for example. In order to expose properly a photographer would have to be a meditation master raising and diminishing his pulse rate to meet with appropriate conditions. Working at night in a combat zone for example could be very tricky as one would have to maintain a long exposure confounded by pounding adrenalin.

Western Wind

painted woman

Western wind, when will thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!

Yemeni Maiden

yemen woman

Gentlefooted crowds are treading out your lullaby.
Their arms nudge, they brush shoulders,
hitch this way then that, mass and surge at the crossings–
lullaby, lullaby! The wild-fowl police whistles,
the enraged roar of the traffic, machine shrieks:
it is all to put you to sleep,
to soften your limbs in relaxed postures,
and that your head slip sidewise, and your hair loosen
and fall over your eyes and over your mouth,
brushing your lips wistfully that you may dream,
sleep and dream–

William Carlos Williams

A Turn To Magritte

not a photograph

Why not? It was made with a camera, It could certainly pass for one. Is it not a photograph because it’s digital? Because it’s zeros and ones? No. Isn’t it a moment? Well yes, but only by default. It’s not because of the words written on it either. And it has nothing to do with reality versus representation. The simple reason is that it relies on nothing that is exclusively photographic. The same effect could be achieved with scissors, glue and three pieces of colored paper.

Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” — Rene Magritte


black in russia

They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

[Job 4:8-9]

In Search of Lost Time

old man

I find myself wanting to give the picture this name despite having never read the book and not knowing what it is about. Perhaps the man in the picture has read it? Perhaps the title of the book has come to have its own meaning in itself? It has separated itself from its contents. Somewhat like Catch-22. This is neither a nostalgic nor a historical photo. Nor is it a memory, nor a face from the past. It is a memory yet to come.

On Photography

fashion model

This photograph could have been taken by anyone. So could any other photo. There is nothing special in the fact that you or I or Phil took the picture. Photographs like ideas simply exist around us, floating in the aether, waiting to be appropriated. This is why Newton and Leibniz simultaneously invented calculus. And for this reason pictures taken by me are not mine. Nor are the ones you take yours. My responsibility for their creation is secondary. They’re still out there for someone else if I don’t take them — for anyone else.



Things change rapidly they do. Believe it. Here’s the latest incarnation of my site currently being revamped. Hope the photo holds you over for now. Mike.