Bruce Gilden’s Picnic with Sergey


I’ll focus on just this one photo essay by Bruce Gilden. He is a highly controversial photographer, pages after pages could be written just about him.
This essay is known either as a “Picnic with a Gangster” or “Picnic with Sergey”. As you can imagine Sergey is a (small time-time)gangster. He ‘s Russian who’s whole life has been shaped by Soviet Union. He’s familiar to me a little, I am Polish and I’ve seen this type before a few times. I’ve seen what Socialism/Communism did to people’s minds.
This must have been specifically what Bruce Gilden wanted to shoot or the only thing available for him. Because Russia is huge and in Russia you can get anything you want if you have got time or money.
The pictures are raw, gritty and great. They dip you in a world you will never experience or even see. It’s a subjective way of looking at only one slice of a pie, but it’s a pie you never thought existed.
Look at every image for as long as you can, soak in the details and let your mind go. It’s a strange but fascinating world, Big Man’s world. Size matters here, “Kaban” which is Sergey’s nickname may mean the wild boar in Russian, but I am sure in this context, it just means the big guy. That’s what it means in Polish.
Look at the semi-naked bodies, exposing all the folds, wrinkles and missing teeth without a thought. Do they care less or just differently about their body image?
Look at the omnipresent violence, genuine emotions and wodka. Isn’t it great?
But is this Russia or just what we think it is?
Bruce gets to his subjects very close, uses flash and shoots instinctively. If something feels right he presses the shutter even if framing or composition isn’t perfect. Photographs aren’t staged but caught or found. Situation like this one are like rivers. You can have a swim but need to be aware of the current. You can’t fight it either – you go where the flow takes you.
If you like the photographs do a little bit of research on Bruce. He has got as many admirers as enemies. I really like some of his photos but I am not sure if I would like him personally.
Make sure to watch the vimeo clip and the gallery.