“Another Family”


I first saw Lilya outside a famous underground club near Saint Petersburg. She was squatting down to pee.

“Can I photograph you?”

A punk who was looking after the baby-carriage told me “Fuck off”, but Lilya started to pose for me with great enthusiasm. She was proud of her beauty, of her extreme looks, and of her blond angelic-looking little girl.

Then she invited me to her place — a small room of a communal flat. It was filled with strange smells and drunk people. Her boyfriend Pasha whom she called “Dandelion” for his curly hair was more an aggressive punk and junkie. They were listening to horrible music, watching horror-movies, and their room seemed more like a cyber-punk club than a living space. The little girl was crawling around the room, touching empty bottles, dirty blankets, cat’s shit… and the mother sometimes dragged her away: “Anfisa!”

They were living in a darkness, mixing day and night, behind the thick curtains, descending to the street only to ask for some money for the cheap alcohol (they already couldn’t buy any drugs). Their daughter was with them all the time and she was looking at all this with wide-open eyes, tried to touch and to taste everything. They fed her with expensive artificial milk, dragged her away from dangerous things, changed her diapers and said, “Anfisa, stop. Anfisa, go to sleep!”

Anfisa could sleep despite the heavy music and noise. She was a very quiet well-behaved baby and almost didn’t cry.

Seven days passed like this, with me coming and going with my camera, and they remembered it afterwards like an end of a long period when they had gone to the very bottom. After that they kicked out all the guests, cleaned the house and lived like normal people… Well, almost like normal people. (By the way, what does this mean — normal people?) This lasts only until the next crazy period.

Two years passed since the pictures were taken. I visited the family a few times since that. They hadn’t quit their lifestyle, still used drugs but lived rather bright and artistic lives and still took care of the girl, looking at her as a part of their life, sometimes with humor. Some other people of the same attitude came to live next door, and they all lived in a peaceful friendly atmosphere.

But half a year ago Lilya left the family, and nobody knows where she is now. Pasha takes his daughter to the kindergarten and goes to some cheap-paid work. The girl can talk and seems to have normal development. She only has more serious eyes than all other children of her age. Pasha looks miserable and aggressive and doesn’t want to have any further contacts with people concerned about the future of this family.