The allure of the everyday
The furthest John Peter Askew travelled while taking these intimate photographs was Perm, the very easternmost city in Europe, some 1000km east of Moscow. There he saw a way of life that was far removed from the endless grind of making money, one where the everyday was dignified, and people treated each other with respect. Despite a lack of wealth, people seemed to possess a very real sense of freedom, and of community. His sitters show a true sense of togetherness. Askew shows that these distant people are not like us – they are us, part of a bigger ‘we’ than most of us usually think about.
The exhibition brings together a full twenty years of photographs made in Russia. When starting to visit the country he befriended an “ordinary” Russian family called the Chulakovs, and many of these photographs feature the multiple generations of that family together, going about their daily lives. Askew’s work often captures domestic scenes of daily life, but he helps us see a special beauty in perfectly ordinary (that word again) moments. In presenting hundreds of images together, he gives us an incredibly rich tapestry of Russian life, rather like a pictorial version of one of the epic Russian novels.John Peter Askew: We: Photographs from Russia 1996-2017, until 18 August, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, at National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland. northerngalleryforcontemporaryart.co.uk