Photos and Text: Ivan Kashinsky














Warmi y Bloques  (Woman and Blocks)                                                           El Ojo del Consumismo  (The Eye of Consumerism)



Recently, I decided to do a project.  I began documenting my neighborhood using only my iPhone.  I’ve been living in Ecuador for about nine years now.  It’s been a wild ride with sky-high highs, rock-bottom lows and everything in between.  I’ve spent a large chunk of my life on the Equator.  During my time here, I’ve traveled throughout Ecuador and Latin America working on assignments and projects.  I’ve been hopping from country to country, assignment to assignment, always on the go.   And just when things started to slow, it was time to go back to California and visit family and friends. Home, in Ecuador, has been a place to rest, regroup, and prepare for the next journey.  I had never really stopped to examine how wonderfully funky my home was, until I moved to Rumihuaico.














Lavadora de Carros (Car Wash)                                                                                La Selva de Asfalto (Concrete Jungle)

Zapatos de Taco (High Heels)                                                                                   Listo para el Horno: Ready for the Oven

#Rumihuaico, #Tumbaco, and the Surrounding #Communities

Rumihuaico is a barrio near the city of Tumbaco, and ever too close to Quito.  It’s the kind of place where everyone says hello to their neighbor.  Walking down the street, you are transported to a far-off time, where little old ladies dry seeds on their patios, men drive by on old rusty tractors, and kids play outside into the night.  Just down the road is the city of Tumbaco.


Not too long ago, Tumbaco and the surrounding neighborhoods were nothing more than vast farmland.  In recent years, there has been a mass migration from countryside to cities.  With this population shift, Quito has spilled over into the surrounding valleys.  What once were agricultural fields, are now parking lots and shopping malls.  Foreigners and wealthy Ecuadorians have begun buying large chunks of land and settling up in the hills.  Quito’s international airport has been moved down to this valley, leaving Tumbaco smack in between all the incoming flights and Quito.  This has heavily increased the traffic and has led to the construction of a super highway that will run through the area.


Despite the exponential growth and the rise of fast-food joints and global pop culture, parts of this area maintain the qualities of a small Ecuadorian pueblo.   Tumbaco and the surrounding areas are a perfect example of the old vs. new, chicha vs. diet coke, or cockfights vs. movie theaters.  It is a fusion of the old generation and the new generation, a chaotic mixture, which I am a part of.  I plan to document my daily journey through this rapidly changing area, and I’m going to do it all with my phone.














 Vacaciones (Vacation)                                                                                                 El Guerito (White Boy)














Comida Rapida (Fast Food)                                                                                        Trabajando con los Padres (Working with the Parents)


Why use my phone?  That’s a good question.  If I’m investing my time and taking this project seriously, why not use a camera with some major megapixels? I’m taking a chance and this is an experiment.   Less than a year ago, I had no idea what instagram was, and I would have laughed at the thought of using my phone for a project.  So, why use a phone now?

1)   I always have my phone.  Whether I’m walking to the local store to buy a beer or driving through the car wash, it’s in my pocket.   How many times have I seen a beautiful moment unfold before my eyes and thought, “Shit, my camera’s in the house”! That’s not a problem anymore.


2)   It’s less intrusive.  I already stand out here.  I’m about two feet taller than everyone else.  It doesn’t matter what I wear or if I learn the local slang…I’m still the “Gringo”.  It’s a lot easier to shoot with a phone without being noticed, especially when you’re doing street photography.


3)   It seems appropriate for this story.  If this is a story about the old vs. the new, a personal story about my place in this neighborhood, it seems like an interesting idea to use an iPhone.  That’s what this story is about, the shift. This includes rapidly changing technology and the digital revolution, which is happening all over the world, including  in #Rumihuaico.


4)   Mass Communication.  This is an amazing opportunity.  Because of my connection with National Geographic, I’ve been able to link people back to my instagram feed.  I now have 37 thousand people receiving this story on their phones.  @Natgeo has 2.4 million followers and @thephotosociety has 114 thousand.  Never before have I had the opportunity to share my work and my ideas with so many people!


5)   It’s live.  People all around the world can watch this project as it develops and comment on it.  That’s cool.      


(There are plenty of reasons not use my phone for this project, but I’ll save that for another blog)

Una Moto en la Noche (A Motorcycle in the Night)                                           Fumando Basuco: Smoking Cocaine Paste














       La Parada del Bus (Bus Stop)                                                                                     El Sendero (The Path)

Thanks so much for checking out this post!

-If you have instagram on your phone, follow this project live @ivankphoto

-If you don’t have instagram, check it out online

-Runa now has its own instagram feed: @runa_photos

-check out runa on FB

This project is part of a collective project with Karla Gachet, Misha Vallejo, Ivan Kashinsky, and other Ecuadorian photographers called “De Generación”.  Stay tuned as the projects develops!

About contests, festivals and grants

Text by Mijail, photos by various artists

Warning: This post is written by a beginner professional photographer and many of the thoughts may be too subjective, inexperienced, inaccurate or even wrong. Reader discretion is advised.

This is probably the best epoch for photography: this craft has never been more democratic, the amount of (new) photographers is overwhelming, the quantity of photos produced everyday is astonishing and the quality is fairly good (not only because of faster cameras and lenses). So, what are the most important things to do while starting in the business of photography? You have to be good and get noticed.

I am not going to talk about the first point, I’d rather focus on the last one. In order to get noticed (by photo editors, curators, agencies, galleries) contacts in the field may be very handy, but the question remains, how to get them? As I see it, a powerful tool to start are the photography contests, festivals and fairs… BUT, there are just too many to choose from and nothing secures that if you enter a contest and then get chosen, you will have success and your photographic career will take off. In fact, the probabilities of being chosen in a contest AND successfully launching the career are pretty low and demand LOTS of work. But you lose nothing trying, right?

That is true, unless the contest has an entry fee and then you could lose both time and money… Nowadays there is an increasing market in photography contests and festivals, which is good in one hand. On the other, there are also lots of contests and festivals that exist only for business sake. So the dilemma for a cub photographer is whether to spend those last 35 Euros in our pocket on a thing that has lots of possibilities of not bringing any benefits, or investing that money in photographic materials or food (yeah, photographers also eat).

I am not sure if I want to create a big debate about this topic, but I want to illustrate recent experiences I’ve had in this field:
One of the contests to which I applied, replied saying that they did not choose me due to the big amount of entries they had this year, but encouraged me to participate in their next events. They said that they broke the record of submissions and had around 5000 applications. If we multiply that amount by 35 Euros (for the first 5 images submitted and 3 more Euros for each additional) we reach to an amount of nearly 200 000 Euros (or perhaps more). Sure, the contest has to pay judges, organizers, has to buy prizes, print images and catalogues, etc. But I am reluctant to think this will cost that much, bearing in mind that the contest also has sponsors. Another contest told me (I’m pretty sure it was their robot secretary) that they were “impressed by my work” but did not choose me. As means of keeping me interested they offered a 10% discount for their next contest. A contest in which I was selected last year, wrote me asking if they may use one of the selected pictures in a slideshow this year in a gallery opening in New York where lots of curators and editors are supposed to attend. I was excited, but they told me that if I agree, I had to pay $60 for 4 seconds of exposure in a slideshow next to hundreds of other images… Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, this might be a pretty good business, and I agree with that.

The capitalized market has taught us one thing: if you don’t risk, you don’t get any benefits. So, to what extent should a photography enthusiast (cannot name it professional because he’s not earning any money from it) risk it’s often limited wealth? It is my opinion that before risking any money, the enthusiast should get as much information from the organizers, judges and previous events as possible. And this is why I am writing this post: to share with you my knowledge about trustworthy contests and for you to contribute if you know something that I don’t know (or to tell me if you think I’m paranoid).

I would recommend applying for every free contest. That is if you have the time to prepare your entry for each individual one. I think there are as many formats to apply as there are contests, so this may be a really tedious and time-consuming work. I would also recommend applying to every major contest like the World Press Photo, the POYi or the POY Latam (if you’re from this part of the world) or the Sony World Photography Awards. It is true that the chance of winning is small, but nothing is impossible as shown by some of my close friends and colleagues. And finally, I would like to recommend these contests (feel free to add other contests or festivals in the comments bellow or in our Facebook page):



 Human rights through visual story telling.


© Giovanni Cocco http://www.giovannicocco.it/


Athens Photo Festival

Two categories: Stills and Multimedia. Not attached to any particular theme. Deadline July 31st.


© Jan Banning http://www.janbanning.com/


Bursa Photo Festival

Photojournalism. Sadly, due to the protests in Turkey, it is uncertain if the festival will take place this year.


© Mijail Vallejo http://mishaka.com/  http://www.runaphotos.com/photographers/mijail-vallejo/


Delhi Photo Festival

Not attached to any theme. This year’s entries are closed, but worth trying next year.


© Alessio Momo http://www.alessiomamo.com/


Emerging Photographer Fund

Photojournalism prize awarded through the Magnum Foundation. This year’s entries are closed, but worth trying next year.



Foam Talent Call

For young contemporary photography. This year’s entries are closed, but worth trying next year.


© Alejandro Cartagena http://alejandrocartagena.com/


Fotovisura Grant

Contemporary photography. This year’s entries are closed, but worth trying next year.


© Mijail Vallejo http://mishaka.com/  http://www.runaphotos.com/photographers/mijail-vallejo/


Getty Images  Portrait Prize

A new grant from this large agency. I’m confident the results won’t disappoint. Deadline August 5th.



Leica Oskar Barnack Awards

For young contemporary photography. This year’s entries are closed, but worth trying next year.


© Evgenia Arbugaeva http://www.evgeniaarbugaeva.com/


Night Contact

Mainly for multimedia. Deadline 15th July.



Premio PHotoEspaña Ojo de Pez de Valores Humanos

Mainly photojournalism. This year’s entries are closed, but worth trying next year.


© Ohm Phanphiroj http://ohmphotography.com/


The Other Hundred

Photojournalism and portrait photography. This year’s entries are closed, but worth trying next year.


© Alejandro Reinoso http://www.alejoreinoso.com/


The Photographic Museum of Humanity

All kinds of photography. Each month new on-line exhibitions and highlighted photos.


© Cesar Morejon http://cmorejonfoto.wordpress.com/


Keep in touch for more monthly posts about photography and remember to follow us in Instagram @runa_photos and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RunaPhotos

If you know of any other contest, grant or festival that you trust, please write the link on the comments below or in our Facebook page.

Until next time!



Sirens and booms

Photos and text by Mijail V.

This will be one of the most difficult posts, but it won’t be about politics.

The first time I heard the sirens, I was with my mom discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict in her room. At the beginning we did not understand anything. It was as if there was this big and loud ambulance and it wouldn’t pass by… And then we heard the BOOM. For me, it was one of the loudest and scariest noises I’ve ever heard, and not because of the noise itself, but because of the effect it produced in my mothers face: a panic effect i’ve never seen in her.

We went running out of the appartment, and on the stairs we found our neighbours already standing there with their faces also marked by surprise and fear. The imaginary “no-conflict-bubble” surrounding Tel Aviv was gone.



In the following days, life in the city continued: children went to school and adults to their jobs. But you could feel the tension and fear in the air, especially during the sirens and booms.


Yesterday, after the explosion of a bus due to a terrorist attack, I went for a walk through the city. The tension was higher than ever. People were always on their phones, whether reading the news or trying to reach for the loved ones.

I thought that this should be a good time to inspect local bomb shelters, just in case.

Gladly, a ceasefire was reached at the evening and life is getting back to normal. Yeah, there are still some jets and helicopters flying around the city. And yeah, I still get scared with any loud noise. But I hope it will pass and peace will last… although there won’t be a bubble anymore.

To finish this post, I’ll leave you a small video with a siren and a boom.

I hope that next time I’ll post about something more positive.

Misha V.

PS. Please share this story with your friends and follow us in our Facebook page.

Sancho: The Little Jeep that Could

Text by Ivan K
Photos by Karla and Ivan

Yesterday we traded you in for another.
You will always be remembered as the jeep that took us to the end of the world… and back.

Nobody thought you’d make it. You climbed the Andes of Peru in search of the Condor Gods. You choked on the dust of the Altiplano, resuscitated by a helpful and knowledgeable Bolivian man. You swam through the fingers of the Napo River and crossed the driest desert in the world. You battled the endless wind of the Patagonian roads and triumphantly crossed the Straight of Magellan. There we sat in the Land of Fire, peering out of your fogged-up windows, watching snowflakes fall from the sky. Together we smiled. We were half way through the longest journey of our life.

When there were no hotels, we rested our sleepy heads below your red roof. If we needed a better vantage point, we climbed up on your back feeling your metal indent below our dirty shoes.

You where there for us. With all our belongings inside you and more strapped on top, you were our faithful companion. For that we are in debt to you.

And now we’ve traded you for power steering and automatic windows. We’ve traded you for cushy seats and a bump’n sound system. Sancho, you must forgive us.
Believe us when we say, “Sancho, you will NOT be forgotten”.

Follow Sancho, Ivan, and Karla through South America with their App Short Stories
See blog entries from this journey

Check out Runa on FB

until next time,


Text and multimedia by Mijail.

“We photographers are changing the World. Be sure that whenever you grab a camera something interesting will happen”. That’s what I heard Russian photographer Aleksandr Belenkiy say at the end of a workshop. He couldn’t be more right.

It all started when I decided to do a story about Ecuadorian shamans but had no contacts whatsoever. So I followed Belenkiy’s advice. I grabbed my camera and travelled to Iluman without knowing what would happen. In this small town, next to the famous city of Otavalo, in the northern highlands of Ecuador, lives a population of about 7000. Around 300 of them belong to the local “Association of Yachacs” (Yachacs means healers in the indigenous language, Kichwa).

I arrived in Iluman and began to walk around, trying to find some Yachac that would let me photograph him. I was a bit lost and confused until Diego introduced himself and asked if I needed any help. That’s how he became my guide in this town and showed me where the most famous Yachacs lived.

The rest is history. I knocked on many doors but nobody would let me in. Some Yachacs told me that it was not possible because my presence would disturb their sacred rituals. Others just wanted my money. Finally I found Luz Maria Otavalo, a 60 year old indigenous Yachac, who agreed to let me photograph her. So I visited her during 8 months and this is what came out:

This is my first solo multimedia project, so please feel free to comment, critic and share. You can follow us on our Runa FB page: https://www.facebook.com/RunaPhotos.

Can’t wait to see your comments! Till next time.

From La Clementina to La Mama Grande

Text by Karla

Photos by Ivan, Caro and Karla

During the last blue moon in August, fifteen foot flames ate up our home.  What is left of the hundred-year-old hacienda house named La Clementina, still sits on the edge of the Cañón del Chiche. At the bottom of it, the river with the same name snakes through muscular Andean mountains. Two months after the fire, I finally find the courage to write about it, my heart beating at the level of my throat.

I miss it. I probably always will.



The natives of America call it grandfather fire, because it’s wise and older than humanity itself.  The grandfather filled up its lungs with air and decided to ignite with one blazing blow all of our physical memories. In twenty minutes, it all turned to dust. Years of collecting masks, cups, heart shaped rocks, postcards, spears, sea shells, journals, drawings, movies, magnets, poison darts, feathers, ponchos, blow guns, photo books, coins, skulls, dead insects, saints, devils, photos…  I guess we liked collecting. All of a sudden, you become clean of everything. You feel like you were given a blank canvas, like a new born baby. And you feel sad and glad.



You would think the worse part about the fire was losing your “stuff.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t. There was deeper damage that went beyond what is replaceable with a trip to the mall. It started creeping on us slowly.  We ignored it and went on with life. We found a new home, bought new clothes and logged into our facebook accounts. But it just wasn’t the same. We were pissed and depressed. To the point of wanting to scream, escape, break up, or sleep… just sleep.  I lost a lot of my archive.. so I didn’t feel like shooting.. ever. We were living inside a dark, burnt-down dimension. The foundations of our relationship had been shaken. And we didn’t feel like asking for help, we just mourned in silence.



Recently, I went to La Clementina to visit my ex neighbors who have become like family to us. The house was clean of all our stuff, no debris, just house again. I walked through all the familiar rooms trying to find our smell. It wasn’t there anymore. Just cold empty rooms. There was a huge hole were our bed had been. The wind sang to me of old times that were no more. As the night fell, we built our own fire in the garden and sat under the avatar-looking tree. I looked across the garden at the dark and silent house. Through the broken windows you could see the ghosts of all times sliding from one room to another. I decided I didn’t want to live inside the burnt house with them anymore. I asked the moon for clarity.


I feel like I can finally move forward. Our new home was named after a grandmother, La Mama Grande. Its small and cozy and reminds me of a womb. Its a good place to heal and with it new neighbors have come and the bonds are getting strong. Our cats are finally home with us again (they went wild and almost left us for the canyon) and they seem peacefully content in their space. Today we leave to shoot a story we have been working on for some time. It feels good. A day at a time as they say. Good thing your house only burns down once in a blue moon. :)


Wealthy Roma: The Outs


We arrived in Buzescu in the morning.  We had no translator and communication was difficult, if not impossible.  After walking the streets we found a man who spoke a few words of English and he invited us onto his patio.  After several shots of palinka, the local alcohol, we popped the question: “you think it would be possible to stay here for a few weeks and document the lives of the Roma in Buzescu?  We were firmly discouraged and sent on our way.  A few hours later we woke up on a bench on the main strip… finally the palinka had worn off.  What now?  On the verge of defeat we wondered the backstreets.  ”De donde son?”  Ramona yelled at us.  It turned out, a lot of the Roma had migrated to Spain to work and then had come back.  Spanish was our way in….



Shampi came to the door and started calling my name one day. She told me her brother-in-law had died and the family needed someone to photograph the funeral. At the house, the wife of the deseased cried in a room with his mother and sisters. Their three-year-old daughter played in the patio in a bright pink dress.  Florea Radu, 29, was electrocuted while stripping copper from power lines in Spain. The father dialed the airport’s number with shaky hands. They said perhaps the next day the body would arrive. Early the following morning, the women prepared food for the whole town.  Everyone came to cry.  As the day advanced, so did the expectations of the arriving casket. At night, when it was confirmed Florea’s body was only a few minutes away, everyone came out to the street to welcome him home with a chorus of wails and screams. The intensity was surreal, like a wave of sorrow drenching everyone and everything . I stood paralyzed as the car’s lights blinded all of us. Down came Florea, the cries and shouts reached their crescendo. The men washed and dressed the body behind closed doors. “Bring the photographers in,” someone shouted. We were pushed inside the room where Florea lay in a white suit and shiny black shoes surrounded by a crowd.  Everyone wanted a last photo. The next day, hundreds paraded him down the main strip.  At the cemetery, everyone visited separate tombs, crying for their own dead.



Arranged marriages were common in Buzescu.  By the age of 13, Casi was living with Sammy and his parents (in photo with yellow background).  She cooked and cleaned and when Sammy clapped his hands she was down on her knees cutting his toenails and putting on his socks.  By the age of 17, many of the young Roma men had wives and babies and were preparing to move into their own mansions.  Education was not valued and most dropped out of school early, learning how to make their own fortunes under the guidance of their parents and peers.  As the couples aged, many of the women looked after their children while the men worked in other parts of Romania and beyond.  But during holidays and special celebrations, the abandoned town came back to life as families and friends reunited.


In Buzescu, everyone knows everyone else’s business. The women are not to be seen with other men once they get married, although men can do as they please.  Most women understand the importance of being married in such a conservative society.  Mioara quickly became my friend, she was our next door neighbor.  Having come back from Spain, she found herself an old maid (she was 28) in a town were it’s not well seen for women to hold a job.  An older couple approached her and asked if she would marry their son who was then waiting for a sentence in prison. Mioara accepted at once, left her own family and went to live with them to wait for his return.  The engaged couple had talked on the phone and sent some cell phone pics back and forth.  It occurred to Mioara that she had a job for me. She wanted  a series of portraits that she could send to him in jail. And so the photo shoot started. She liked to dress up in fancy clothes and play with her hair color. We had fun. A year later, when we returned to finish the story, she told me her husband had finally received his sentence: 10 years.



We would like to thank Ramona and her aunt Dida for giving us a home in a place where no one else would. You were key in our understanding of the Roma culture and the characters of Buzescu :)

We had fun editing the outs!  Please check out the story on the National Geographic website and in the SEPT issue of Nat Geo..

and visit Runa on FB


Karla and Ivan


First impressions

After more than a day spent between airports and planes (including an 8 hour scale in Amsterdam’s airport), I finally arrived to the place that will be my home for the next year (at least) – Israel.

I’m still a bit lost here: my senses perceive a huge amount of information and I’m trying to organize them but it’s complicated. I’m not going to lie: these last days were really difficult for me because of personal reasons and the images I chose may have a lot to do with it.

Trying to leave problems behind I started exploring the surroundings of Tel Aviv.

Wen’t to the beach, got a bit of a sun burn and made a friend.




Also went to Jerusalem and visited a market there.

People here say that there, where Jerusalem ends, starts Bethlehem. So I decided to take a look at Palestine.

Also had the opportunity to see the desert.

And finally went home and met my mother.

These are just my first subjective impressions, and are NOT intended to be a serious project right now. George Tice once said, “you can only see what you are ready to see – what mirrors your mind at that particular time” and, as you could notice, my mind is blurred right now .

One last thing, if you’re interested in photography and currently live in Israel feel free to contact me. There is a phrase I really like: “artists should get together, it helps them getting inspiration and force to do interesting projects”. And I’m sure it works with photographers, too.

Till next time!

Mijail V.

P.S. Shana tova! Happy new 5773 year (according to the hebrew calendar).

Graffiti en Vivo



















Venders called out prices for calamari, clams, and fresh fish, as locals scoped out the selection in the old port district of Valparaiso, Chile.  This is what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years.  Like a play, they acted out their daily rituals in the alleyways of the city.  But in recent years, their backdrop has changed.  Larger than life psychedelic graffiti covered the walls of Valpo creating an unlikely combination of old-school porteños playing out their daily life amongst unending vibrant street art.




















“You walk down the street and you see graffiti you respect, and you think, wow, it’s not in a magazine or on the Internet.  It’s Live!”, Teo explained with excitement.  He’s a young graffiti artist with an appetite to create.  “When you see a blank wall it’s like a bomb in your eye.  The wall falls in love with you, you have to fall in love the wall, the wall seduces you.”  When Teo, who paints with the collective “Vida In Gravita”, finds his spot, it doesn’t matter if he has time to sleep or eat.  He gives it his all until he has a powerful piece to present to the world.  But Teo doesn’t want fame.  “Fame is instantaneous.  It’s a false friend.  I don’t want to fall into an egocentric game or have my work in art galleries”, he insisted.   The beautiful thing about street art is that it belongs to no one.  It’s not a possession hidden in house or mueseum, but an organic growth spreading throughout the city, for all eyes to see.




















Valparaiso was known as the “Jewel of the Pacific”, an important stop for ships on their long journey around cape horn, booming in the years of the California gold rush.  But when Roosevelt finally carved his way through Panama and connected the two great oceans, Valpo, was no longer needed.  It fell into a deep sleep, a forgotten port, decaying into the Pacific.  In recent years it has made a come back.  It was named a UNESCO World Hertiage Site in 2003 and tourists flock to the port for its raw unpolished atmosphere and bohemian lifestyle.  Along with the recent boom, graffiti art has leaped out of the minds of the young like an untamed tiger, devouring the city walls.






















According to “Charquipunk”, one of the first artists to begin the movement in Valpo, it all began in 2000.  Artists from Santiago began experimenting in the hills of the port. It is a sprayers paradise, with infinite alleys, stairways, and slopes, allowing viewers to see the art from many different viewpoints, as opposed to a flat city.  Soon local artists, like “Inti”,  “Larobotdemadera”, and “Caos”, began to jump in the game and create art that was different, not strictly hip-hop letters, but something new.  As the art took over, and the city became a legend, artists from all over the world began to show up to leave their mark in Valparaiso.




















Many of the locals have embraced this movement.  “The people want to know me, as a person, as an artist,” Teo told me with joy.  “They say, ‘hey, come paint my house.’ It’s magic.  There’s no place like it.”  The fisherman selling in the old port had a different opinion.  To them the graffiti on the wall stank like a rotten fish.  “It’s illegal,” they told me, “these people should be put in jail.”  But as sure as the fishermen will gather in the alley every morning, graffiti artists will continues painting the cityscape of Valparaiso.




















Thanks for checking out the post,

Ivan K

check out more pics on Panos

or in the Runa Archive



Russia’s foreign students

I went to Russia in 2004 to pursue my university studies. My intended field was in computer aided design, but soon I discovered my true passion: photography. I became more involved in photography and photojournalism after attending the Festival for Young Photojournalists in Hanover, Germany. After viewing such strong stories at the festival, I felt the need to grab a camera and record everything around me. So that’s how I started.

When I went back to Russia, I enrolled in the St. Petersburg Faculty of Photojournalism Galperin, and for my first ever serious project I chose to record what was around me – my life as a foreign student in Russia. This turned out to be the final project for my first year of photojournalism studies, but I couldn’t stop even after completing the assignment. I kept taking pictures of myself, my fellow foreign friends and other unknown foreign students. I kept pursuing this project until my final year in St. Petersburg.

While working on this project, I discovered a wonderful organization, the documentary photography network Liberty.SU, that helped me put together a small multimedia presentation with photographs and interviews depicting life in Russia as a foreigner. I’d like to give special thanks to Katya Bogachevskaya for her help. You can see the video that came out of this collaboration here (remember to set the english captions by pressing the “CC” button).


Three years after starting this project, I started editing my work, which wasn’t an easy task due to the amount of pictures and my close relationship with each of them. To begin my story I chose to put a photograph that would represent the whole scope of the idea: a grid of Russian student IDs with foreign faces on them.


During the story, I decided to play with a bit of contrasts:

warmth – cold

violence – love


Sometimes, I felt the necessity of including more abstract photographs which show my state of mind at that moment. The purpose was not to be more artistic, I simply wanted to show what was going on my head, my thoughts and how I felt right then, since this was a personal story.


This was my first photojournalistic story ever, and I know it may have some mistakes, as I was not able to always “kill my darlings” (as photographer Pieter Ten Hoopen once said), but I think it’s a decent beginning in the visual storytelling business.

Part of this project was included in the collective show “The young man in the XXI century” (Riga, Latvia – 2010) and in “Young photographers of Russia” (Moscow, Russia – 2010).


In Ecuador, it was published in the Vanguardia magazine in October, 2011.


And finally, in Russia it was published in the on-line edition of the Moscow based journal Bolshoi Gorod in May, 2012.


I hope you find it interesting, and if so, you can help us spreading the word about all of the projects on our site. And if you like, you can join us in Facebook, too.

Till next time!

Mijail Vallejo