What the president does not know

Matteo Spertini

Buryatia (East-Siberia), Russian Federation

This is the plot-less diary of a year spent playing with the small guests of orphanages in Buyatia: a steppe land in the Russian republic, wedged in at the far end of Siberia. A sleeping/numb land, an incredible/surreal corner of the world characterized by kitsch home furnishing and obsolete symbols rusted over with tired ideologies, still nailed to the door frames. Adults, parents, politicians, look at the scenery, the performance, sports, wars, from their line of vision. Children are right there, just below. Smaller.

I believe that educators, criminals, even the president, can’t know, just as I didn’t before my trip. They can’t know that the empire’s orphanages are actually harboring an immense treasure, made up of solid, stubborn optimism. And it’s right there, ready to be discovered -precious though it is- in those pure eyes, by any visitor passing by the games room: all he has to do is have the courage to crouch down a bit.

They can’t know of that obstinate patrimony, happy, regardless of their poor, delinquent, wretched parents, alcoholic, soldiers, violent bastards sons of bitches. He can’t begin to imagine the tenacious innocence that this youthful troop is armed with, sharper than the make-believe swords they brandish, more dangerous than the Kalashnikovs their fathers played with in Chechenia. This is why I chose to name this work “What the president does not know”.

This is why I chose to tell this story with my photos and why I cutted off their eyes. To protect their identity, leaving holes in the pictures so similar to their lives plenty of gaps and absences. There is no plot, no specific purpose, in these pictures. Just like those endless winter afternoons spent in the play room.