Photo exhibit focuses on ‘Russian St. Louis’

"Pancakes" by Evelina Yulianova

"Pancakes" by Evelina Yulianova

The latest installment in the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ ongoing Public Policy Research Center Photography Project features pictures taken by Russian natives residing in St. Louis. Participants were taught photography through the UMSL project and then asked to document their culture for the exhibit, “Russian St. Louis,” which will be on display at two locations.

Ron Laboray, a PPRC Photography Project instructor, worked with a group of Russian immigrants for the exhibit. He described them as “lively, determined and internationally astute” and said they expressed “a strong desire to create stronger bonds between Russians living in St. Louis.” This sentiment was echoed by project participant Dmitri Kabargin, who is president of the Greater St. Louis-Samara Sister City Committee.

“It is amazing how people who emigrate from a country as huge as Russia do not get connected with each other and do not build a strong community in a small city like St. Louis,” said Kabargin, one of just under 17,000 Russian immigrants in the St. Louis area. “There are a lot of small groups, small Russian communities, within St. Louis, but there is no one place where you can learn about all of them. Projects like this let people know about each other and help build a stronger community.”

The group met for 10 weeks to study digital photography and discuss how their photographs reflect what it is like to be Russian in St. Louis.

Laboray said the participants felt it was important to convey Russian tradition without relying on the standard pop culture clichés. Instead, the resulting photos captured a range of subjects: a long workday, a game of billiards, a special dinner, family, church, motherhood and Russian World War II veterans.

“Russian St. Louis” will be on display Jan. 26 through March 14 at the PPRC Photography Project Gallery in 427 Social Sciences and Business Building at UMSL, One University Blvd. in Bellerive, Mo. Gallery hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. An opening reception will be from noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 19 in the gallery.

A duplicate of each PPRC Photography Project exhibit also is displayed in a location affiliated with the photographers. In addition to UMSL, “Russian St. Louis” will be on display Jan. 26 through March 14 at Astoria Restaurant, 12949 Olive Blvd. in unincorporated west St. Louis County (63141). Exhibit hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. An opening reception will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the restaurant.

The PPRC Photography Project was modeled after the pioneering community photography programs established by artist and teacher Wendy Ewald. Several volunteer St. Louis-area community groups participate in the PPRC Photography Project each year. They learn the basics of photography and then are asked to document efforts to improve their neighborhood’s quality of life. The Public Policy Research Center’s goal for the project is twofold: to highlight the undertakings of local organizations working toward the greater good and to inspire people to take a closer look at and get involved with their communities.

The Photography Project was co-sponsored by the Public Policy Research Center at UMSL, Missouri Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts and Regional Arts Commission. Visit http://pprc.umsl.edu or call 314-516-5273 for more information.

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