As a boy I had huge interest in communism and communist countries. When I first heard the term “Iron Curtain” I literally imagined a large black iron wall a million feet high surrounding Eastern Europe holding everybody back.
I remember very clearly when that curiosity took hold. I was 11 at the time and Canada had decided to follow the US lead and boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics over the invasion of Afghanistan. The threat and boycott of the Olympics over the invasion bumped the images of the Afghan war to the front pages of every newspaper and magazine across North America which sparked my intense interest and passion for photojournalism.
Learning last summer I would be covering the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics I wanted to find photoessay I could work on that would combine a few of these ideas.
On my last trip to China I purchased a cheap Chinese made toy like film camera called a Holga and used the camera to photograph the Great Wall of China. I wanted to re-create a similar project for my trip to Russia and after some research I came across the Russian camera manufacture called Lomo which had produced a commemorative camera for the 1980 Olympics Summer Olympics called a Lubitel 166.
A quick search on eBay and I was in luck several were for sale from Russian buyers at $50 each. The first one I bought broke after only one roll of film, the second one arrived the day before I left for Moscow which I though for sure was a good sign but it also broke after only the three rolls of film. I bought third one in Moscow at a second hand camera store where the owner of the store tried to sell everything but the camera I wanted and went into great detail on why the camera was the most problematic Lubitel ever made.
Tracking down athletes turned out to be the biggest challenge which fell on the Globe and Mail’s Moscow fixer. Most said yes and all were confused as to why a photojournalist from Canada had any interest in them 34 years after the Moscow Summer Olympics but every time I pulled the commemorative Lubitel 166 out of my camera bag they all smiled and the wall when two strangers first meet came tumbling down.
Ashot Karagyan a fencing coach photographed at the Druzhba sports ground all so know as the "crab building" used during the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Karagyan won a sliver and bronze medals in fencing at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.
Tatiana Kazankina teaches sports management at Lesgaft university photographed at Winter Stadium in St. Petersburg a former riding stadium now turned into a indoor tack and field venue. Kazankina won gold in the 1500m sprint at the 1990 Moscow Summer Olympics.
Viktor Sedyak retired from the Red Army photographed at a Moscow park. Sedyak won gold in fencing at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and several others in pervious Olympics.
Vera Komisova track and field athlete photographed at her Soviet era apartment building in St. Petersburg and is retired from teaching physical education at a teacher's college. Komisova won gold in the hurdles and sliver in the 4x100 relay at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Nikolai Sidorov head of the Moscow sports committee Photographed at CSKA-Dinamo red army football and track and fields sports ground built for the 1980 summer Olympics. Won gold in the 4x100 relay.
Vladimir Salnikov head of the Russian swimming federation was photographed at the Russia Olympic Committee building, built for the 1980 summer Olympics, in Moscow January, 2014. Salnikov won three gold medals in swimming team relay, 400m and 1500m at the 19080 Moscow Summer Olympics.
Lyudmila Kondratieva a track and field coach is photographed at Spartak-Znamenskiy training ground in Moscow January, 2014, which was built as a practice facility for the 1980 summer Olympics. Kondratieva won gold in the women's 100m sprint at the 19080 Moscow Summer Olympics.
Pyotr Zayev a physical education instructor for the Ministry of the Interior was photographed inside the police
gym at the college for the Ministry of the Interior police cadets in Moscow January, 2014. Zayev won a sliver medal in boxing at the 19080 Moscow Summer Olympics.