A Russian photographer e-mailed me to say how much he liked the black and white images on my website. A dialogue and exchange of images began.
The next thing I knew, the Russian Photographic Union invited me to be one of three Americans to visit the Russia Far East (east of Siberia) for a ten-day summertime photographic trip down the Amur River which is the Russian border with China, flowing into the Sea of Japan. Although I've traveled extensively, I hadn't been to the former Soviet Union. It sounded like an excellent opportunity to see a part of the world that had opened-up briefly to outsiders.
It may sound strange, but in many respects, I felt that I was visiting small town America -- perhaps even the America of the 1800s when the pioneer spirit was strong. There are obvious differences. The language is different and the people are struggling at a subsistence level.
Unlike Americans of 1999, the people of the Russia Far East had very little in the way of material possessions. But the similarities are what struck me. They were warm and welcoming. They were hard working and family-oriented. While they lived a harsh life, there was much love, laughter, appreciation of art and beauty, and a connection to the land and nature.
I believe that art builds bridges. I want to share these images of Russians and their life with Americans to show them how much alike we all are -- perhaps far more alike than we are different.