Suburban Ghost Town

22 January 2018

Photographer Sasha Saharnaya
Interview Sasha Saharnaya
Words by Brogan Anderson
Models Klim and Gleb Gammerschmidt

It’s a suburban ghost town, quiet and somber. Chertanovo - perched on the edge of the illustrious metropolis that is Moscow. The silence disrupted by distant shouts of children at play reach their ears, the sound caught up and lost in the passing wind. Shopkeepers sit on plastic chairs at their doors, watching the day disappear before them. The city beckons the souls of Russian brothers Klim and Gleb.

It’s their playground, a typical grey, and dull cityscape contrastingly, so full of life. A city to explore and get lost in. Tall towering buildings, lost in the clouds, mask footsteps that echo in the hallowed streets. Their booming strides reverberating off the concrete walls as they enter their bustling haven. Photographer Sasha Saharnaya captures the boys in her signature photographic style; filtered, grainy black and white film frames, with vibrant dashes of color - pink and red saturating the classic vibe. She freezes them as they are, a moment in time that they can reflect into their next time capsule.

Gleb is only young, his adolescent mind yet to uncover what his older brother has discovered, experienced and seen. Sat a decade apart, the brothers have an understanding and they are reflected in one another - despite their minds being worlds apart. Hear and see through the eyes that idolise 23-year-old Klim, and feel the protective brotherly arms that encompass Gleb. A wholesome and stirring exchange of words.

Moscow is the city of possibility and chance, a faraway land from that quaint place they once belonged to. “I lived in the other town for a month and it was boring,” Gleb.

Who are Klimentiy and Gleb? Describe each other.

Gleb: Klim is my brother. He means a lot to me. If you ask something from him, he’s gonna give it to you. He is generous. And if you want to be friends with him - don’t piss him off and you’re gonna be okay.

How would you describe yourself to a person who doesn’t know you?
Gleb: Top model, expensive, haha.
Кlim: Gleb is a 13-year-old teenager, very polite and well-bred - but he’s got a very tough character. His zodiac sign is Gemini, which means his mood can change any moment. He is also very ambitious, he always knows what he wants. If he doesn’t agree with something, it’s almost impossible to convince him. And of course, as any teenager, he’s into video games, youtube, and stuff.

Are you close as brothers?
Кlim: When we used to live together, we spent most of our time hanging out with each other - going to the movies, walking around the neighborhood. So now there's still no distance between us. Gleb is growing up, so there are more topics to discuss with him now. It gets more interesting to talk and hang out with each other.
Gleb: Since we’ve been sharing one room for ten years, we were together all the time besides school and kindergarten. You can’t get rid of your brother, you know, haha. You have to deal with each other, and even if you got nothing to talk about, you still come up with something 'cause you are in the same room and you talk anyway.

How are you both similar and how are you different?
Gleb: We look similar, but our personalities are different. Each of us grew up in different places, so we see this world in different ways.
Кlim: My brother and I are absolutely different by nature, but what we have in common is the way our parents raised us - we have respect for each other. It unites us. Actually, the main advantage of the age difference is that sometimes when I look at Gleb I see myself. That’s why when he messes up, I take it more easily than our parents, 'cause usually, I understand why he does what he does and what’s the reason for it.

Gleb, what is it like growing up in Moscow as a young boy these days?
Gleb: It’s awful, it makes you wanna grow up so bad, and growing up in Moscow is the only good thing about teenage student life. And the fact that I’m also not administratively liable yet and I don’t need to work.

Klim, what advice would you give to the 13-year-old self now?
Кlim: Don’t take this life too seriously. It seems to me, I was a little bit more serious when I was 13 than Gleb is now, and I was more concerned about different problems, although now I realize it was nothing.

Did you enjoy the shoot with Sasha?
Gleb: I did enjoy this shoot a lot. It was fast, and if you wanna hire Sasha, do it right away, haha.
Кlim: Well, it was a little cold, haha. Actually, it was very interesting - we talked about this shoot a lot deciding whether we were gonna style it or not. We decided to shoot us in our own clothes, as it could reveal our character and personality the most. That’s why it was amazing to work with Sasha, because her photography is not about just a picture - but it’s also important to tell a story about a person she shoots. And she didn’t insist on anything, haha.

Where did you grow up? D
Кlim: I was born far from Moscow, about two thousand kilometers away, in the town called Mineralnye Vody, in the Caucasus. So I was growing up around mountains, and since we had no cell phones or iPads, we spent all our time exploring different caves. Then when I was 6 years old, my parents and I moved to Moscow, because there were many more opportunities.
Gleb: And my childhood was not like that. I was born in Moscow, so I already had iPads and iPhones and I could play games on them, haha.

Your parents are very kind, you know that?
Кlim: By the way, my childhood wasn’t only carefree - at the age of five when all boys play with fire and are curious about stuff like that, I decided to burn a truck with a whole bunch of hay in it.

And why did you do it?
Кlim: I was curious about the way hay would burn, but all of a sudden the entire truck was on fire and I had to run away from the “crime scene”. Later when the whole village community was looking for the person who did it, I had to confess and told my mum it was me. So my parents had to pay a hundred dollar fine. At that time it was a huge amount of money for the Caucasus region, so my mum had to call my dad who was already working in Moscow. Otherwise, they would have filed a lawsuit against us.

What impact did it have on you?
Кlim: It was a big shock for me as a kid and I had nightmares about fire for a very long time after then. That day made me think about the things I do and about the consequences they might have. I was very sad I screwed it up so bad and disappointed my mum.

Klim, you use fire in your creative works. In the movie “Yof” there were a lot of symbols of fire like burning barrels and a bonfire.
Кlim: I can’t say I’ve done it on purpose. When you create stuff, it often happens that you do something subconsciously. That movie is about young carefree guys, bonfire parties, and youth. It attracts you with its beauty and danger.

Has it helped to have each other around growing up?
Кlim: We have ten years age difference. When Gleb was born I was thirteen like he is now. I had to babysit him a lot, feed him and go for walks with him 'cause our parents worked a lot. So being that young you already look after someone and take care of someone - in other words, you’re not totally selfish.

Gleb, has Klimentiy been a role model for you growing up?
Gleb: I wanted to be like him. When he had long hair, my hair was long too. And later he decided to cut it and as I already was used to copying him, I was also thinking of shaving. I was always repeating his words, and it helped me. He told me a lot of stories, and because of those stories now I even win arguments with my friends.

Do you ever cry?
Gleb: I cried only when I was hurt. But if I got an F at school or I had a fight I tried not to cry. It only happened when someone tried to insult me badly and I got offended, but even then I was making an effort to keep it together.
Кlim: It’s a stereotype that men don’t cry.

How do you think masculinity is changing now?
Gleb: If you asked me if I considered myself a masculine person, I’d rather say no than yes. Let’s say you asked me if I was ready to die for a friend under some circumstances, I’d have to say no. I couldn’t have done it. Nowadays it’s a unisex era. A man might look feminine, but have a strong personality. If a person is responsible for his actions, if he is honest with himself and with people around him - if he doesn’t hurt a softie, then he is masculine.

Klim, tell us about your profession.
Klim: A couple of months ago I graduated from the operator faculty of Russian State University of Cinematography named after S. Gerasimov. My last projects were different fashion videos. It gave me experience and money. But of course, I’d rather make movies 'cause that way you can show what you’re made of as an artist.

Do you want Gleb to follow in your footsteps?
Klim: No, it’s a big amount of inner hard work - endless doubts and worries. It takes a lot of inner resources. Though if he’s ready for it in the name of art, then I don’t mind.

How do you get ready for your shoots?
Klim: I get inspired by movies or music videos, and by some fashion shoots. I often look at paintings. It helps me enrich my works without copying.

How do you mentally rest after shoots?
Klim: Well, if I had a very long hard shift, the next day I would be in bed eating ice cream and watching stupid TV shows or comedies.

Do you feel comfortable sharing your emotions? Or do you go into your shell and keep it to yourself?
Gleb: I prefer keeping emotions close to my chest. Some people don’t care and they would hardly listen to your problems and emotions.

You always have you brother.
Gleb: So what? Even if I talk to him, I’m not gonna be relieved. I’d better say it out loud to myself at home. You listen to music, you talk to yourself. You play games, you talk to yourself. You're in bed, you keep thinking - you're taking a bath, you keep thinking. You keep thinking wherever you are.

Speaking about music, what band or singer would you like to see live?
Gleb: I forgot what band it was. I don’t know, I guess Russian rapper shows are fun.
Klim: I’m more into the classics, like Mary J. Blige and Sam Smith.

What is male beauty to you?
Klim: Beauty is such a word… It’s like happiness. You can’t give an exact definition. What is beautiful for one person, for another is not worth noticing. For example, someone sees the beauty in horror.

And what makes a person beautiful for you?
Gleb: To me what’s inside is more important. If someone is ugly, but he’s a good person - he might be disgusting when you see him for the first time, but then when you get to know him you’re gonna change your mind. Appearance is not a reason to not hang out with someone and not to be friends with him.

Have you ever been in love?
Gleb: Only if being in love with my cat counts, haha.
Klim: I’m in love.

Do you like living in Moscow?
Gleb: It’s much easier to live in Moscow. I’ve lived in the other town for a month and it was boring. Moscow has movie theatres, attractions, and more parks. I don’t get that much thrilled about going for a walk in the forest or in the park compared to people who don’t have all that living in smaller places.
Кlim: There’s absolutely no way I would change this city for something else. I love Moscow. It’s a big and complicated city, but it can be very different. Sometimes it’s noisy and it’s fun with a big number of parties and sometimes it’s quiet and cosy in old time patios. In this city, anyone can find his way.

Do you think you were different from people you grew up with?
Gleb: I was different in a way that it was interesting to talk to me. The other kids my age were literally kids, they were only playing with toys.
Кlim: Back at school I was very spleeny and closed as a person. Everyone seemed boring to me, I felt my isolation from them and did nothing to socialize and get along with people. I had very few friends before I entered the university, and there I found my soulmates.

Do you guys have a lot of friends now? And what does the word “friend” mean to you?
Кlim: I have a few friends.
Gleb: Fewer friends, fewer problems.
Кlim: Actually, I have many buddies but only one friend. That’s enough for me. I’m not alone. Friendship is like a relationship - it requires constant work and support. When people have many friends, they waste their energy a lot, not really being friends but in fact only pretending. So I think it is better to have one good friend rather than a whole bunch of people who won't support you in your hard times.

Gleb, what does it mean to you to live in a residential area, the so-called bedroom suburb of Moscow? Did it influence your personality in any way?
Gleb: I do live in a bedroom suburb and it’s pretty quiet. Many foreigners think there is some kind of ghettos in Moscow and it’s dangerous. To me, these are all just stereotypes… Of course, Russians also have such opinions about the US. The most dangerous in our neighborhood are students who smoke, drink alcohol and who can threaten you. That’s it.

And do you think the fact that you grew up in a bedroom suburb and not downtown has any impact on you?
Gleb: I think, if I lived downtown, I’d show off more and want more from this life. And now I’m more humble.

Klim, you were striving to be independent from your parents. When you came across it, was it like you imagined?
Кlim: It was very spontaneous. It wasn’t so easy at first. I had to have limits on everything, but it only motivated me to work harder.

What about you Gleb? Do you wanna be independent from your parents?
Gleb: When you’re an adult and you still live with your parents, that’s a shame even. It’s like you haven’t achieved anything in your life. And also it’s wrong to demand money from your parents for shopping and stuff when you can work yourself.

Do you have any passions you can give us an insight into?
Gleb: Like any teenager, I’m into video games. I’m also into fashion, I wanna look good. Every teenager wants to have stylish clothes and a nice haircut. For example, I want a hoodie by Gucci, like the one that rapper Pharaoh has. Everyone wants branded clothes to show off. Why else would you have it? Definitely not to be comfy in it.

What makes you happy?
Gleb: The fact that I have a family and a brother who loves me. When you realise you have all this it makes you happy. And also playing games.
Кlim: For me, happiness is when I’m satisfied after a shooting day.

What are your dreams?
Gleb: I think, most people’s dream is having a family. But as I’m not really a family person, the main dream for me is to get a good job. Lately, I’ve been thinking that people wanna have families, but they make little money. So they have to spend almost all their money on their girlfriends, then wives, then kids having good clothes and education. So they work for the diapers. My point is that you have to be able to take care of yourself first and then think about family.
Кlim: I want to film a great, beautiful movie. It is my biggest dream and my main goal.

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