Tamina-Florentine Zuch
Left to Die

On average, in Togliatti every eighth man around the age of 30 is HIV-positive. The Russian city of 700,000 inhabitants lies in Samara Oblast and became famous for its Lada factory. However, over the past decades it has been characterised by gang warfare, drug abuse and untimely deaths. The local phosphorus factory, which closed in 2003, was subject to theft for years as drug addicts stole the mineral in order to make the drug known as krokodil. Krokodil leads to death after a short period of use. The latest popular drug, speed, is much cheaper, easier and more discreet to make and consume. Companies that sell the ingredients required to make speed spray-paint the names and hashtags of their websites on walls all over town. Consumers buy and pay online. With this photo documentary, Tamina-Florentine Zuch has created an image of a city in its third generation of collapse, drug abuse and despair.

  • Community
  • Crisis
  • Drugs
  • Everyday Life
  • Religion
  • Russia
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

I experienced one of those moments while I was working on my project in Togliatti, Russia. I was accompanying drug addicts in their daily routines and every day I wondered: how can anyone live here? How can anyone live like this? Why is this city the way it is? Why are the people the way they are? Every day brought new questions; some of them had ready answers. I tried to understand why that place had become a living hell, and to understand the reasons that make it impossible for those people to break out of their surroundings. Why getting high seems to be the only way out. Photography helps me understand. Every story I shoot adds another piece to the puzzle of my understanding of the world.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

I was travelling in Russia with reporter Bettina Sengling to create a portrait of the country. We visited caviar farms, camel breeders, Buddhists, monasteries, cadets and young men who enjoy re-enacting the Second World War. In Togliatti, we encountered an independent organisation that distributes condoms and disposable syringes. In the eyes of the government, doing this promotes drug consumption and sex. We returned to Togliatti twice, looking for the story that would tell about the misery of that city. “Left to Die” documents a society that is struggling in its third generation of decay, drugs and hopelessness.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

There is a tendency towards moving images. Despite decreasing circulation figures in the traditional print media, digitisation offers new narrative possibilities: combinations of pictures, film, text and sound enable a broad spectrum of presentations that can quickly bring viewers close to emotional stories. This takes good, focused cooperation. Photographers must broaden their positions, and magazines must move towards new narrative formats. Most importantly, the leading media companies must become involved in this development.

»It´s not HIV and drugs that pop in your mind when you think about Russia.«

Tamina-Florentine Zuch

Curated by Tom Wesse

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1990 in Stuttgart, Germany
Tamina-Florentine Zuch works as a freelance photojournalist, videographer and author in Hamburg. She studied Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts and has worked as a staff photographer for Stern magazine. Zuch photographs her stories around the world, most recently in Iraq, Afghanistan and China. In 2016, she won the ZEISS Photography Award.


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