The Roofs of St.Petersburg -The Story Behind the Pictures


In July of 1976 I worked as a cameraman for a feature film about the plight of the Hermitage staff during the siege of Leningrad in World War II. At some point during the pre-production the key members of the crew, the director, director of photography, production designer and I were allowed on to the roofs of the Hermitage, which was normally closed to the public. What I saw there was God's view of Leningrad. A mere sixty feet from the ground took me away from the drab reality of the Soviet Union, with only the sky, architecture and sculpture around me, giving me an insight into what Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli - the architect behind the Hermitage - must have seen from the scaffolds of the palace. The city below served as a hazy background for the statues, crenellated facades, and gables of the palace. The rarely seen Leningrad sun burned through the haze and washed the whole scene in an incredible light, creating a dream-like setting. I was there with an old East German Exa in my hand, my mind in a trance induced by the spectacle around me. While shooting frame after frame, it became clear to me that this was not going to be just another batch of snapshots kept in a shoebox. This magic should be shared with others.

It took me seventeen years after that session to relive the magnificence of that day in July with exhibition prints. In the interim I emigrated to the U.S., leaving behind the negatives without any hope of getting them back. Only with the dissipation of the Soviet Union was I able to get my photographs. The exhibit took place in New York at Cinestudio - a sound stage where I'd worked as a cinematographer, the Donnell Public Library in New York City, in Connecticut College and in Washington DC. There were press articles and the Donnell show was reported on a local television. Nobel Prize winner and Poet Laureate Joseph Brodsky came to the exhibit and was so taken by the images that he introduced me to his publisher and promised to write a foreword for a book containing my images. Sadly these plans were interrupted with his death.
The images of the “Roofs of Saint Petersburg” are available in traditional silver halide selenium toned prints.
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