In November of 1995, I arrived in Moscow, Russia, as a new bride. In the previous three months I had moved from New York City, married in Florence, lived briefly in Milan, and now relocated indefinitely to Moscow with my British husband. Just after we landed, we went to a Guy Fawkes party at the dacha of a colleague of my husband. I remember the burning effigy in the back yard, the kilts worn by a few of the men, and the four feet of snow on the ground. Moscow is not an easy place to live.
I lived in Russia for two more years, and during that time, tried to continue working as a photographer, even though the simplest things, like getting a roll of film developed, were unbelievably challenging. I would shoot a roll of color negative film, take it to Itar-Tass (the news agency), and get bits and pieces of contact sheets (in black and white) in return. One roll would be contacted on two or three sheets of paper.....whatever they had, it seemed.
I shot this fashion story near the end of my time in Russia. It was a scorching summer day, and we had to shoot Fall fashion. These photos ran in the first or second issue of Marie Claire. It was the first major international fashion magazine to arrive in Russia. Vogue came later. Most of the pictures they used in the magazine were taken from other editions and the text was translated to Russian. This was a rare photo shoot that took place in Russia, with a Russian team of models, a makeup artist and a stylist. The art director was French, as I recall. I remember casting the models and having them try on the clothes for the story to make sure they weren't too thin. Several of them were!
The great part was how easy it was to shoot in a great location like the Pushkin museum (blonde model in black/camel story). We shot all day there in a sort of stealth way, and only got kicked out at the very end of the day. The priests at the monastery where we tried to shoot the brown/navy story were much tougher. They wouldn't let us shoot inside their walls at all, so we just had to work with what we could find in the street.
I thought these photos were gone forever, lost in one of my six or seven moves since that time. And then they just appeared, in a box marked 'tearsheets' on the shelf of my newly organized office that has been a work in progress for the last few months. I keep finding lovely old things that were all part of my life before everything could be stored or shared on the internet. Back in Moscow, I was lucky when I could get a dial tone and use my AOL dial-up email for 30 minutes. I would write massive letters to friends back home (8-11 time zones away), log on to send a letter, and usually wait a day or two for a response. I am glad the systems have improved, though I would argue my letter writing was better back then.