06.03.2021 – 27.03.2021

Documentary project by Alexandra Demenkova
The hunt is worse than bondage,
his passion captivates
(Russian proverb)

«As is often the case when I was driving to the residence, I still didn't know what I was going to shoot. I was going to find a small village and live in it, get acquainted with its internal structure, with all its inhabitants, understand how and what they live. I decided, if necessary, to go round all the villages of the district in order to find the one of my own.

Arriving in Vyksa, I began to travel to villages — both large and close to the city, and small, in the depths or on the border of the district.

Pretty soon I realized that I could not find the village that I imagined — it turned out that most of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages work at the factory, many villages are almost or completely abandoned, and among them there is not one in which their way of life would be preserved.

Then I decided to shoot the hunt.

Hunting interested me for a long time, perhaps because of the frequent stories about it in Russian literature (in «Notes of a Hunter» by I. Turgenev, «Cossacks» by L. Tolstoy and other works).

Before that, I had already filmed hunting in Russia and France, but always in passing. In Vyksa, I realized what hunting is for a hunter. This is not a hobby, not an idle pastime, not earning food — this is something completely different. This is a passion, like photography to me. This is the essence and meaning of their life, its foundation.

Almost all the hunters I have met spend their every free day in the forest, and so on throughout their lives. Like almost any passion, the passion for hunting often borders on insanity. To an outside observer, especially a city dweller, it may seem that hunting is a senseless and cruel occupation, but for hunters, hunting and their way of life are filled with poetry. We can say that they live in the forest, the forest and thoughts about it. They constantly talk about hunting, discuss it, make new plans. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the love of hunting is absorbed with mother's milk. They become hunters from childhood — they go to the forest with their father or grandfather, and forest animals and birds often live in hunters' houses.

I met the first hunter, Alexander, in the working village of Vilya. Then I did not know yet that hunters can be considered a special caste, rather closed to outsiders, especially to women (although there are also women hunters). It is not customary to take women with you on a hunt.

None of the hunters refused me directly, almost all of them promised to take them with them on the hunt, but it happened that later they did not answer my calls or found some excuses. I often came to despair, but I continued to look for contacts, negotiate.

After the shooting, I thought about the very word «hunting» — this is «wanting, desire, inclination or aspiration», and «passion, blind love for the occupation», and «catching, baiting and shooting wild animals, as a trade and as fun» (Explanatory Dictionary of V. Dahl).

Apparently, in ancient times, when the hunters went to get food, they did not call it a difficult and dangerous business, but said that they had something to do, to which there was a desire, desire».

Alexandra Demenkova
р. 1994
Alexandra Demenkova is a Russian documentary photographer.
Having received her degree in foreign languages from the Herzen State Pedagogical University, she pursued a degree at the Galperin Faculty of Photojournalism.

In her artistic practice, Alexandra turns to social issues, exploring complex and often disagreeable and taboo subjects, thus continuing the tradition of humanistic photography. The focus of her attention is the quotidian life outside big cities. Lives of her subjects often intertwine with her own, which reflects in the intimate tonality inherent to many of her images.

Demenkova has participated in international photography festivals and exhibitions in Russia, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain, etc, and received the Grand Prix of The Northern Palmyra competition (St Petersburg, 2004) and the Grand Prix at the Best Photographer of the Year competition (St Petersburg, 2006).

Alexandra's works can be found in private and museum collections in Russia, Europe and the USA.

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