Sergei Stroitelev is a photographer based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. In 2014 he graduated from the Faculty of Photojournalists at the Union of Journalists of Saint-Petersburg. His photographic practice primarily focuses on the exploration of the issues of modern society. Using a variety of visual languages and forms, he looks at the identity problems of minorities, gender, health and racial prejudice, ecology and consumerism. Very often his projects are related to his own inner demons, past and family. Sergei is the recipient of a number of international contests such as Award of Excellence at Pictures of the Year International 2021 in the Portrait series category, winner of Istanbul Photo Awards 2018 in the Daily Life Story category, winner of Luis Valtuena Humanitarian Photography Award 2016 and others.
Riga Photomonth will present Sergei’s project The Inner Cat where he recommends to learn from cats how to stay calm in these difficult times. “Everyone, at least at some point in his life, has dreamed of becoming his/her own cat. This is especially true in difficult situations when you want to get rid of problems,” he introduces his project.
How did you start your project?
I always thought that our pets including cats have a big influence on us and vice versa. They change our personalities and we also change them. When people locked themselves up at home during the last spring, the connection became even stronger. I decided to study this connection with the use of photography but in quite a playful manner. Cats are playful, aren’t they? More than that, I am a huge cat lover.
Have you ever thought of killing your cat?
I have two cats — one has a dog name Sharik and loves food very much. He sleeps all day and stays awake at night asking for food at 5 a.m. That is the moment when I hate Sharik a lot. He sits near my bed and yells until he gets his treats. And he knows that he will get them for sure. Despite this, I have never wanted to kill him. My cats are my best friends — they will never mess up with my brain as some people do if I come home late, for example, or change my Facebook password.
What was the craziest thing you did during the lockdown?
There was one funny moment I remember. I decided to shave my head late at night, however my razor ran out of charge when I had finished just a half of it. I thought that I would finish the other one in the morning. Next morning I had a Zoom meeting (I shot some stories online for Russian media during the lockdown) with a completely unknown person whom I had never met before. And when I saw myself on the screen in Zoom, I realized that my haircut looks really bad. That person also started to laugh. I think such a situation is only possible when you stay home all the time.
What has been the best lesson the COVID times have taught you?
I think these times have taught me to slow down, to forget about the rush for a moment. People always run around like crazy. The lockdown has given me an opportunity to structure my thoughts and relax for a bit. By the way, my Cat series is also about that. We have a great chance to learn how to relax from our cats as well. However, the lack of physical contact with friends and some relatives was really hard. Zoom and Skype could not fully compensate it unfortunately. But we can see the light in the end of the tunnel now.
What project are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I am working on a series of portraits of artists who have mental issues.