Gosha Rubchinskiy has made his name by casting a uniquely raw lens on his native Russia’s homegrown skate and punk scenes. Though the designer deftly crystallises the codes of post-Soviet cool, his work often references the era before the fall of the Iron Curtain — he’s collaborated with cult nonconformist artist Timur Novikov, and remixed the iconography of 80s Leningrad punk outfits like Auktyon and AVIA. Photographer Igor Mukhin documented that monumentally transformative period firsthand, capturing the wild energy of youth on the edge in the twilight of the USSR. Now, he’s planning to publish the work in a new photo book, I Saw Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“At the time, we had no idea how the world looked beyond the Iron Curtain,” Igor writes in a statement for the book’s crowdfunding campaign. He explains that while Soviet youth could watch edited films in cinemas or pick up glitchy rock on radio stations like Voice of America or the BBC, “I felt that the time of ‘change’ had come, and I needed to go and shoot.”
Over the course of six years, Igor documented the Soviet Union’s rumblings of rebellion, shooting Moscow’s underground rock scene and the DIY street style it gave birth to. “In 1985, the World Festival of Youth and Students hit Moscow: the concerts, the gatherings, the faces, clothes, and the behaviour of the guests were remarkable. In a word, you could call it ‘freedom,'” Igor notes. “It was simply stunning, for example, to see that guests with long hair weren’t taken to the police to have their documents checked and their heads forcibly shaved.”
Though he presently teaches at the Rodchenko School of Photography and Multimedia in Moscow, Igor acknowledges that his early practice was largely the result of intuitive experimentation rather than formal training. “Back then, I had to photograph without any benchmarks or ‘teachers;’ it was only a year later that a Cartier-Bresson exhibit came to Moscow. I saw a Diane Arbus book for the first time only in 1988, and the same with [Czech street photography pioneer Josef] Koudelka,” he explains. “I shot the USSR exclusively for myself.”
His eye might have been untrained, but Igor’s images persist as a powerfully punk, humanistic document of one of his nation’s most important periods, celebrating the iconoclastic energy behind the Iron Curtain.
To contribute to ‘I Saw Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Indiegogo campaign, click here.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Igor Mukhin