March 08, 2019

Piter's People – Sergey Goorin

Piter's People – Sergey Goorin
Sergey in front of Nevsky Gates of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Self portrait

St. Petersburg is often thought to be a gray city, as it only has about 75 sunny days each year. Still, photographer Segrey Goorin finds inspiration here for his black and white photography, capturing street life, extraordinary locals and numerous parties. 

Sergey, tell us your story.

I’ve started photographing when I was 14. I went to the photo studio (фотокружок in Russian, basically an extra class after the ordinary school day) at the Palace of Youth Creativity in Petrogradsky District. Officially, I studied there for just four years, because this place is meant only for schoolchildren, but I kept going there regularly until I was 20. I became friends with my teacher and started to help him. I don’t have a higher educational degree; I graduated from the Optical Mechanical Professional Lyceum affiliated with the LOMO company [Lomo LC-A consumer camera was the inspiration for the photographic movement known as lomography]. About six years ago I returned to the Palace of Youth Creativity, and now I teach photography to kids. 

I photograph on film. I tried color photography, but have returned to the basics - typical black and white Leningrad photography. I feel that I’m still searching for myself, but my main topics are the city and its people. I like to shoot street life, parties; to catch energy, motions, gestures, glances. I’m trying to capture it through interesting and distinctive characters.

Party like a Russian
Party like a Russian. / Sergey Goorin

My favorite places in St. Petersburg are Peter and Paul Fortress, Petrograd Side and Yelagin Island. The fortress is super touristy, but I like it for that reason. It’s often full of people with cameras, so nobody pays any attention on me. Probably this place can be considered banal, but I have tons of photos from Petropavlovka [the Russian nickname for the fortress] and they all are very diverse. 

Peter and Paul Fortress
Spring at Peter and Paul Fortress. / Sergey Goorin

Petogradka [what locals call the Petrograd District] is my native region, and I know it inside-out. The “city’s texture” is not damaged here; this is the main feature of my neighborhood. I mean, you walk on Bolshaya Pushkarskaya Street or Bolshoy Prospect, and almost all houses date from the early twentieth century. They can be stylistically different, but they look like an organic whole. Of course, somewhere there may be ugly, modern architecture, but it doesn’t dominate. As a photographer, I like it here, visually-speaking. 

Petrograd side
Bolshaya Pushkarskaya street. / Sergey Goorin

I like the part of Bolshaya Pushkarskaya Street where the Svetoch Typography is located. They used to produce notebooks with a Soviet design, which I remember from my childhood. Until recently, this industrial building has held to its original function. And there is a little wooden house nearby. It intrigued me from an early age, and I always asked my mother: “What's inside this fairytale house?” Its miracle that it was preserved in the city center [the majority of the city's wooden buildings were demolished during the World War II]. The building was recently restored by the Ballet Academy of Boris Eifman and now houses their museum.

I also love the Gulf of Finland and the islands – Yelagin, Krestovsky; it’s a piece of the Baltic Sea which is always nearby (and within the city's borders).

Gulf of Finland
About 10% of St. Petersburg's surface area is water. / Sergey Goorin

In some ways, Yelagin Island has preserved the atmosphere of 1960s. I like the babushkas, who ski there during the winter and then stroll there in summer. This place is especially good if you come on a weekday or early in the morning.

Which places you can recommend to persons interested in seeing authentic St. Petersburg street life?

It may sound strange, but for me this is Dumskaya Street. It is lively, a bit dangerous, but I think not as dangerous as it used to be 5-6 years ago. Because of its endless bars and “rivers of alcohol” it has a vibrant atmosphere, which I like to photograph. Dumskaya intersects with Lomonosova Street, which also has a busy nightlife. You can go to Sadovaya Street, or cross Griboyedova Canal and go to Pif-Paf Bar. I can spend half the night in this little area, shoot several rolls of film, step in into absolutely different places, and eat shaverma in the morning. 

Portrait of an unknown woman near Pif-Paf bar
Portrait of an unknown woman in front of Pif-Paf bar. / Sergey Goorin

My second choice would be Rubinstein Street (even though it may sound obvious and banal). I can just walk there without entering anywhere, but still catch the energy of the place. You can see rich kids, glamorous youth, beautiful women on high heels (no matter the season) and somebody who is completely wasted. I like a little place called Ogonyok [“little fire”]. The entrance is from the arch or from the street through the window. It’s a very small bar with a good coffee machine, just two tables and guys who make cigarettes from 10 different kinds if tobacco. Although I quit smoking recently, sometimes I allow myself to take one cigarette in this cozy place. 

Rubinstein street

Rubinstein street is the city's “dining heaven.” There is a restaurant, café, bar, or pub in almost ever one of the 40 buildings along this compact street. / Sergey Goorin


  • Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Dobbert Mansion - the wooden house on Bolshaya Pushkarskaya Street, 14.
  • Yelagin Island
  • Dumskaya Street
  • Ogonyok - Rubinstein street, 8.

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