Vlad Molodez captures the magic and melancholy of growing up in Siberia

After contributing to our My Month in a Photo series, we commissioned the photographer to show us more of his life back home.

by Ryan White
14 June 2021, 7:00am

Back in February, photographer Vlad Molodez returned to Sharypovo, Siberia, from Moscow and spent a few days seeing family and friends in his hometown. During his stay, he took a few photographs here and there — one of which he contributed to our monthly photography series, My Month in a Photo. The picture caught two young boys traipsing through the snow, their brightly coloured windbreaker jackets contrasting with their long shadows cast against the lavender-blue landscape behind them. It was a beautiful submission and a story we wanted to see more of.

We asked Vlad to shoot a series of images that captured the atmosphere of being young in Siberia. Here, he presents the photos from his story and tells us what life as a young artist was like growing up in Sharypovo.

a siberian house raised up on a hill, surrounded by snow and trees

"Siberia is my home. It's such a powerful place, one that I want to return to again and again for new ideas and inspiration. An incredible land to the furthest reaches, it's full of fascinating nature and authentic, open people. There I feel myself in a different world, which I want to explore, opening new borders.

My childhood was pretty good. Being a very creative child, I always had issues with my peers at school. However, teachers supported me. I always had a desire to experiment with the way I look — especially with my hair. I cut bangs and highlighted my hair many times. Mostly I did it myself. I was also always around nature with my father, who would show me the most picturesque views. Once, we went together to the Siberian taiga [a vast snow forest found throughout the high northern latitudes] — fortunately, we didn't meet any bears out there. Meanwhile, my mother helped me with my artistic development. We would create various looks and photograph them. I still remember how we used table lamps for lighting and pieces of fabric for backdrops. I still keep those memories with lots of love and warmth!

a young man against a tiled wall stares into the camera

As a person who grew up in a small Siberian city surrounded by incredible nature, my motherland developed a great motivation, love for life, and curiosity in me. I always want to discover something new for myself and in myself. After spending a whole childhood in a modest place, you strive for the best. The majority of people go to university and the priority among young men in Siberia is technical specialities that allow them to work in factories and large enterprises. In search of creativity, lots of people leave Moscow and St. Petersburg.

I got into photography properly at the age of 18, when I was studying the first year of my bachelor in medicine (which I quit in the second year). There are many talented and artistic people in Russia, but there is not enough freedom, courage, and novelty of views in their works, in my opinion. Artists don't refer much to their identities and roots. That's why when I look at Russian fashion shoots, I have a strong feeling that everyone has the same ideas, and that disappoints me a lot. In my view, Russia is a place of documentary photography, since fashion is not as much a part of our culture as ballet is, for example.

two young siberian men stand outside in the snow in heavy winter clothes

I wanted to make this series feel cinematic, so there would be a story and a narrative that runs throughout. I wanted to show my homeland as very vibrant and open-hearted, to show light to the audience so that they could feel the energy and atmosphere that we have been living in. It was vital to show the guys in their natural state, as they are, to convey their deep eyes with a hint of melancholy. While casting, I noticed that most of my characters turned out to be very thoughtful and sad — I guess I always saw a part of my own personality in them, and I was looking for characters that have something in common with me. A lot of this happened via Instagram, and a few people were found on the street. One of them is a wonderfully authentic Siberian guy who wore a fur hat when we met him and had a wooden sleigh. He was found by my friend Polina, who helped me with casting.

I really enjoy creating works on the topic of childhood, generational changes and homeland. I would like to erase age borders in my projects, where children and adults appear on the same plane with no separation — to show the beauty and originality of people from all generations. I reflect a lot on my childhood years, and this gives me energy and inspiration for my future projects as well. Thanks to photography, I look at my homeland from different perspectives, and love it even more."

two men stand in the distance in a siberian woods
a young person in a bright red jumper stands in a kitchen
a young boy sits and stares into the camera
a young man stood in the woods with snow up to his thighs and a scarf around his head
two young women rest upon each other on a sofa
a young person stares deep into the camera, resting against a plain white wall
a young siberian woman rests against a table and looks into the camera
a young siberian woman stands in front of a white walls and looks into the camera
two people lying on top of each other in the snow
a young siberian woman in a heavy fur-like coat stands outside in the snow
a snowy siberian town, with broken fences and one story houses
a young siberian man sits in the snow and holds a fur hat in his hands
a young siberian person stares into the distance
a young siberian man in a v-neck sweater rests against a wood panelled wall
a snowy siberian lanscape


Photography Vlad Molodez

Casting Lubov Ukhalova and Vlad Molodez

Organisation and location scouting Polina Bannova

coming of age
my year in photos
my year in a photo