February 23, 2024

A Photographer's Empathy


A Photographer's Empathy
Dmitry Markov. Wikimedia Commons

On January 16, Dmitry Markov, 41, known for his depiction of everyday Russia through smartphone photography, died in Pskov. Markov was a recipient of the esteemed Russian photo competition Serebrynaya Kamera ("Silver Camera"), the Getty Images Instagram Grant, and the author of the photobook Chernovik ("Draft").

"The place that Dima occupied in our photography was completely empty before his appearance. I can't recall anyone who photographed Russia with such affection and authenticity," said publisher Leonid Gusev.

Born in Pushkino, Moscow Oblast, Markov honed his craft under the tutelage of Alexander Lapin, a prominent Russian photographer and educator. He contributed his talents as a photographer and journalist for the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty ("Arguments and Facts") and collaborated with independent publications such as Meduza and Takie Dela.

After joining Instagram in 2012, Markov embraced the concept of David Alan Harvey's Burn Diary project, exclusively utilizing a mobile phone, and only posting images on the day they were taken.

Markov's signature style culminated in his participation in the 2016 iPhone 7 advertising campaign "Taken on the iPhone," marking him as the first Russian contributor among 15 photographers from around the world.

A group of nuns enters a church and a group of women leaves it
Photo from Dmitry Markov's Instagram.

He focused on life in Russian locations that are distant from urban centers, and on marginalized communities, including the homeless, correctional school alumni, substance users, individuals with disabilities, and prisoners. Despite criticism alleging that he offered a bleak portrayal of Russian life, Markov defended his focus on the gritty details, citing his empathy for those facing hardship, which was rooted in his upbringing in impoverished conditions and his journey overcoming substance abuse.

Markov also documented protests, capturing poignant moments, such as a 2021 photograph depicting a police officer clad in uniform and a balaclava beneath a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, symbolic of the repression against dissenters in the way of Alexei Navalny's arrest. Recognizing the impact of his work, Markov auctioned the popular photograph to support an organization aiding political prisoners (it brought in over $21,000).

Markov also documented the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including scenes of Russian military departures. One of Markov's final images showed a Russian war participant in Alexandrov, Moscow region, concealing his face while reflecting on the horror of witnessing death.

Dmitry Markov's indelible contributions to photography offer a poignant testament to his empathy, capturing the essence of Russia with sincerity and compassion.

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