New East Digital Archive

Girls in stairwells: celebrating the sublime ridiculousness of the post-Soviet hallway

4 September 2015

Photographer and filmmaker Nadia Bedzhanova is interested in the lives and obsessions of contemporary youth, both in her native Russia and around the world. Her films Wasteland and Adrift explore how youngsters interact with each other and their surroundings. And the surroundings often define the mood of the image. Bored during the fortninght-long New Year’s Eve holidays in Moscow, she came across the interior of the hallway in her friend’s house. “It had so much character, it was just a perfect setup: Russian flag, calendar with Putin and calendar with a goat (to mark the Chinese year of the goat) and a huge Christmas tree,” says Bedzhanova. “I took a picture for my Instagram of a friend pretending to be a guard sleeping there, it was hilarious. Then I noticed that every hallway has its own charm with all these post-Soviet elements: huge plants, christmas trees, ridiculous decorations. I just need to put a hot girl in there and get a pocket film Olympus, and the shoot is done.” Together with the producer Olya Korovkina, she picked eight girls and created a series of images based on two provisos: the girls had to be talented and their stairwells ridiculous. It’s an ode both to the new generation of Moscow girls and to the strange space of the hallway, so weird but also very homely. “I think every person from any Russian city has interesting memories about these spaces,” says Bedzhanova. “Especially in the high school era, when we used to drink our first beers and smoke tons of ‘first’ cigarettes on the staircases of random Soviet buildings.”