This project depicts an old house in Saint-Petersburg, almost of the same age as the city itself. Famous and noble families lived here, but now the building is in a very bad state and waits for renovation, so all the regular dwellers are gone. The house in the city centre still doesn’t stay empty. The temporary inhabitants form two big groups: immigrants from the Central Asia and young artists, musicians, actors and alike. I am not quite sure of the status of this place: some artists’ studios and a hostel young Russians opened here are perfectly legal, but as far as I understand renting here a room isn’t. The house isn’t squatted, everybody pays the rent, and a high one – a disgusting room costs almost as much as my two-room flat. The immigrants pay because they have nowhere else to go: people are not willing to rent a flat to a group of 3 to 7 people, who often are not legal in Russia.
These two groups almost don’t interact with each other, and the whole situation seems to be a miniature representation of Saint-Petersburg itself: great but decaying cultural heritage, young artists who continue the tradition in their own way and on the other side – a constantly growing number of guest workers.
Almost everybody lives here for quite a short time, some weeks or some months. But regardless of the duration of stay they try to bring their own worlds with them, be that paintings and sculptures or homemade lavash and plov. That was exactly the thing I was fascinated and attracted by: everyone tries to create a place he or she could call home, may be as a replica of the home he or she once had, may be an embodiment of the idea of a perfect home.
As they go they’ll leave some parts of their worlds and their domesticity here, and that will be just another cultural layer of many. But for now, even if temporarily, they live here and try to fix up this little part of a big and unsettling world, make it more cosy, habitual and thus intelligible.
Anna Laurinavichyute (1988) is a photographer based in Saint-Petersburg. She has studied at the photo school of the newspaper Izvestia and currently runs a photo blog that follows the daily life of this house.