ABOUT THE PROJECT

DIFFELARITIES is a documentary photography project about the lives of people in the two eternal countries-competitors – the USA and Russia. Relations between these countries have been changing dramatically in XX-XXI centuries. They were allies, and they were in the process of global geopolitical confrontation; there were thaws and assistance as well as mutual accusations and sanctions. But what do we know about these countries and life of people beyond the headlines?

People in the US say that America is a country of immigrants. Russian immigrants are common in the US. A lot of Russians fled their “motherland” for different reasons: economic and political problems, personal issues, or they were just chasing the “American dream”…

I’m also a new immigrant who fled Russia seeking better life. As seek a new life as an American, I would like to better understand what the real America is.

Russia has been my home for 30 years and I’ve documented life in this country for a decade as a photojournalist, and now I’m immigrating to the US to start a new life. I’ve only been to the US once in 2015, and 3 weeks were enough to fall in live with the country, but not enough to understand it. To understand the USA and it’s people better and to find a new place to live, I plan to ride around the states on a bicycle, trying to answer some questions: What does the real America – beyond the headlines – look like? What is a Russian immigrant going to face in this new environment? How is my life going to change? While looking for answers to these questions, I will try to see the USA with an immigrant’s eyes and photograph what I see.

In the end of the journey, I will compare everyday life of ordinary people of Russia and the USA through documentary photography. Around 700 photographs from my decade of work in Russia have been already chosen, and that would be the first part of this project. During my journey around the US, I will also collect visual documents of people’s lives and build the second part of the archive. These two archives will help me bring up the picture and explore the questions – are Russians and Americans that different? Or do we have more similarities than we think? DIFFELARITIES is the project that will try to help find the answers.

As the result of the project, a set of 150-200 documentary photographs describing and comparing different aspects of life in Russia and in the USA will be published in the end of the journey here, on DIFFELARITIES website. Also, a digital book will be issued. On my way I will be looking for possibilities to publish a paper book and make an exhibition of the project. Stay tuned!

THE ROUTE

The “American part” of the project will start in Summer 2017. As I’ve already tried different types of vehicles in previous expeditions (please, read below), this time I chose to travel around the country on a bicycle. Why? It’s the ideal method of transport for unhurried observation: its speed allows to see more details, to listen and to think more. A bike can go almost anywhere, unlike a car. A bike is cost effective. And it’s eco-friendly. A bicycle will help me meet more people and understand what the real USA looks like.

The starting point of DIFFELARITIES is Washington, DC. The main goal of the trip is to visit as many states as possible to understand the country better. Luckily, I have found an “optimal route” through the US. This route was computed by Dr. Randal S. Olson (A Senior Data Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania). His work will help me visit almost 48 states, lots of towns, cities, and even tourist locations. I’m not as interested in tourist locations as in everyday life, though, but this might help me understand American culture.

Dr. Olson’s route is 13,000 miles (22,000 km) long. It will take me about 300-350 days of riding to complete. Taking into consideration rest days and days for photographing, it will take me definitely more than a year to complete the route and collect the materials for the project.

Still, I’ll remain impressionable by those I meet, leaving time to be distracted by ideas, stories, and lives. New cities and towns, new friends, talking to strangers, searching for new subjects, stories, a place to stay overnight, food and water – these are my navigators and assistants. It’s they who will guide me through a new country, help me understand it better and, maybe, find a place to live.

A bike will be the main vehicle, and a tent will be my house. I will also seek for places to stay at on WarmShowers.org. This will help me find directions, advice, events and new subjects to photograph. And to get a shower and a bed, of course.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Alexander Aksakov, and I’m an independent documentary photographer. For more than 10 years I’ve been travelling all around Russia documenting the lives of ordinary people who live in this huge country. Aside from commercial assignments for major US and European media (The Washington Post, NY Times Magazine, Time, NRC Handelsblad, Svenska Dagbladet, Al Jazeera, etc.), I participated in documentary photography expeditions both on my own and as part of a group.

Over more than a decade of documenting Russia, I’ve visited almost every city and a great number of villages in European part of Russia, as well as towns in the Far East of Russia and Siberia.

To know more about me and my work, please, visit www.alexanderaksakov.com.

COMPLETED PROJECTS AND EXPEDITIONS

In 2009 I hitch-hiked from Moscow to Vladivostok and back, documenting life of people on the road (an independent project “Roads of Russia”);

In 2013-2014 I was a permanent member of a sailing documentary photography expedition From White to Black Sea (during this expedition a crew of photographers documented life of people along water artheries of Russia; exhibitions in Moscow, Kaliningrad and Syktyvkar);

In 2015 me and my friend and collegue sailed down a Siberian river Laima on an inflatable boat (documenting a sub ethnical group of Siberian tatars – Zabolotniye tatars who live in the swamps far from civilization; a part of this expedition published in a number of online media).

Besides these expeditions and commercial assignments, as a part of a group or on my own, I made other independent expeditions using classic types of transport (car, plane, bus, hiking, etc). All latest expeditions were made for a long-term documentary photography program CloseUpRussia (www.closeuprussia.com, @closeuprussia).

All in all, almost a decade of travelling through Russia gave me a chance to build an archive of almost 700 photographs of life of Russian people, as well as get the experience of living on the road and in the wild.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

DIFFELARITIES is an independent documentary photography project, which is partly self-funded. But you can become a part of the project by supporting it on IndieGoGo.

You can support project right now by purchasing limited signed photographs here: OnPaper.SU.

Please, if you are interested in DIFFELARITIES, if you want to help bring it to life, if you have any questions, ideas or offers, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email: diffelarities@gmail.com.

Thanks and see you on the road!