New East Digital Archive

In the dark: capturing the evanescent light of Crimea’s blackouts

1 April 2016

The international media spotlight may have moved away from Crimea, but two years on the peninsula is struggling with the practical consequences of its vexed geopolitical situation. Photographer Maksim Shumilov, a native of Feodosia, has been capturing his hometown during the blackouts this winter. “We voted in the referendum, and then it was like this: first the water was disconnected, then power cuts, then bank cards and Google play and the iTunes store…,” the photographer says. “I was lucky, in my neighbourhood we had electricity from 4 till 7 am: waking up at 4, I’d charge my camera and switch on the washing machine, by 7 it would all be done and I’d go to work.” Ironically, Shumilov works for Krymenergo, the company providing Crimea with electricity. By day he lays power cables to provide the light, by night he captures the absence of it. “We wouldn’t stay out too late — these were taken from between 7 and 10pm. I’d set exposure times of five to 15 minutes.” A photograph is an imprint of light, and Shumilov’s images show that even a blackout isn’t completely dark, the light just comes from somewhere else. “I don’t like the way the west is always showing the dark side of Russia though, I’ve got some great photos of the summertime too — beachside cafes and that,” he enthuses as I interview him online. A long pause ensues. Then he comes back: “Sorry, just had a power cut!”