Nov/Dec 2018 Current Moscow Time: 17:13:07
15 November 2018

  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Portraits of St. Petersburg

Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Portraits of St. Petersburg

by Linda DeLaine

Thirty years ago, Valentin Baranovsky began to take pictures of both everyday life and major events in his home town. This became a unique one-man artistic project to document three decades of St.Petersburg life. The photographs, to be presented in book form and through exhibitions, date from 1970 to 2000.

Portraits of St.Petersburg has two objectives. First, give the public a rare opportunity to see the works of this prominent photography master. Baranovsky's acclaimed work in exploring and documenting St.Petersburg life and culture has not yet been shown in full. His archives contain hundreds of thousands of authentic St.Petersburg photographs. The second goal is to allow Valentin the chance to share his knowledge and experience as an accomplished photographer and artist.

Baranivsky is best known for his portraits of common city folk engaging in daily life, as well as celebrities who have visited or lived in St. Petersburg over the past three decades. Baranovsky's art of portrait photography has transformed from an early traditional approach within the old Russian and Soviet schools of portrait photography to the modern and very personal "signature" style recognized both in Russia and abroad. Showing the development of this very special artistic style and marking its milestones by describing the photographer's achievements in Portraits of St. Petersburg will help many other photographers, both young and mature, realize how a photographer's skill and artistry can develop within one genre.

Valentin Baranovsky is one of the leading Russian ballet photographers. His photographs of the Mariinsky ballet premieres, the visits of Maurice Bejart, Rudolph Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and other outstanding ballet dancers and choreographers to St.Petersburg are the backbone of his personal photo archive.

In addition to the festive ballet pictures and celebrity portraits, the archive includes portraits of several generations of St.Petersburg citizens - workers, students, doctors, old men and just passers-by in the streets. Portraits of St.Petersburg will consist of several chapters. The changes in the life and culture of St. Petersburg during the turbulent 1970s, Stagnation of the 1980s followed by Perestroika and the 1990s era of reform and new social order are chronicled through Baranovsky's work.

Sample of Portraits of St. Petersburg chapters:

  • "Children and Old Men : Portraits of generations of St.Petersburg citizens, their "spiritual portraits", relationships, hopes and despairs, philosophy and wisdom.
  • Ballet Dynasties of St.Petersburg: Portraits of Natalia Dudinskaya, 75, who teaches at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, and her husband-dancer Constantin Sergeyev (now deceased). Nina Zubkovskaya and her ballet family: her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson are dancers. A portrait of Natalia Makarova, her son and her husband, made when the ballet star visited from London. Askold Makarov, Ninel Zubkova, and their dancer-son, etc.
  • In the Interiors of St.Petersburg: Portraits of common people and celebrities in the streets and homes of St.Petersburg. Three girls on a tram, 1974. 1989 portraits of Rudolph Nureyev. 1970's wedding in Leningrad. "Kitchen Conversations" of 1980's. Portraits of people living in old aristocratic flats and communal apartments.
  • The Musical Underground of St.Petersburg: Baranovsky was one of the first photographers to take pictures of St.Petersburg rock-musicians at the time when rock music was banned in Russia. Portraits of rock-musicians as young aspiring men in the early 1980s and as famous musicians in the late 1990s . Boris Grebenschikov and his "Aquarium". Victor Tsoi and "Kino". Alexander Bashlachyov. Konstantin Kintchev and "Alice". These portraits are poignant, expressive, full of that aggressive and yet romantic feeling which penetrated both pre-Perestroika and Perestroika gatherings and cultural happenings.
  • The Mariinsky: Portraits of the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet dancers, singers, conductors, and audience. Valery Gergiev. Boris Eifman. Maurice Bejart and his Company in 1998 at Mariinsky. Stars on stage and behind the wings. General rehearsals. Hard work and the joy of creative self-expression.

Valentin Mikhailovitch Baranovsky, born in 1948, has been snapping pictures for most of his life. His first photograph was published in a professional "Soviet Photo" magazine when Valentin was only ten years old. In the 1960s, he studied and worked in the famous Carl Bullah photography studio on Nevsky Prospect and began making his first portraits.

Baranovsky dedicated himself to photo journalism during that 1970s and 80s and was a staff photographer for the "Novosti" Press Agency (APN). Many of his photo essays and photo reports were published in APN editions abroad.

Baranovsky ventured into the world of freelance work while still working as a photo journalist. His freelance work focused on ballet. Valentin's personal collection includes some of the last pictures of Mikhail Baryshnikov prior to his defection to the U.S. in 1974. Baranovsky photographed almost all the premieres of the Mariinsky's ballets and operas and served as lead photographer in movie and video-recordings of the Mariinsky shows produced by NBC, NHC, and BBC.

Baranovsky has worked with several ballet-masters including Roland Petite, Maurice Bejart, Oleg Vinogradov, Boris Eifman, Dmitry Bryantsev, and others. All posters, books, and brochures about the Mariinsky Theater have been illustrated with his photographs. Another exceptional feature of Baranovsky's archives are photographs of Rudolph Nureyev's last visit to St.Petersburg as well as the visits of Natalia Makarova, Maurice Bejart, and a number of other outstanding dancers and choreographers.

Another area of Baranovsky's interest is the Russian rock-underground. He was one of the first professional photographers who began to take pictures of St.Petersburg rock-musicians at a time when rock music was banned by the State.

From the 1980s, Baranovsky's photographs have been included in many books on St.Petersburg published by Russian and foreign companies:

  • In 1991-1992, the "Droemer Knaur" publishing house of Germany put out several guide books with photo illustrations by V. Baranovsky including Moscow, Leningrad, Baltics, and Unbekanntes Baltikum ("The Unknown Baltics").
  • In 1994, St.Petersburg, a large photography album, was published in Paris by "Editions Chapitre Douze".
  • In May, 1997, the "Abris" publishing company published a book on St.Petersburg in which the majority of photographs belong to Baranovsky.
  • Baranovsky has also contributed to a number of tourist print projects (albums, post cards, posters, brochures, calendars, etc.).
  • Valentin is a permanent contributor to ballet magazines in Japan, the USA, Canada, and England. Recently, he worked closely with the well-known American photographer, Deborah Turberville, on shoots for "Vogue" and "Lomo Vogue" in Russia, the USA, China, and Mexico.


  • Winter Palace

  • White Nights

  • Twins

  • Peter Paul Fortress

  • Babushkas

  • Nutcracker

  • Walking a Cat

  • Lomonosov

  • Lady in Snow

  • Jordan Staircase