Yuri Segalerba “la Ciudad nuclear”

Yuri Segalerba, genoese moved to Berlin, dragged from his passion for abandoned industrial areas, has been working in photography since 2009. The interest in architecture, industrial archeology, sociology and cultural minorities give him inspiration to choose the objectives of his trips, during which he ventures to the most hidden places on the planet documenting different social environments.

His photos are characterized by symmetries, geometric shapes and central perspectives that tend to flatten the subject, giving a two-dimensional sensation of it.

“La Ciudad Nuclear” is the project chosen for F-Orma, the exhibition opens on 9 July at the Espacio Tangente Contemporary Art Creation Center in Burgos. We asked Yuri to tell us about the project and many other things …

Hi Yuri welcome to F-Orma and thank you for sharing your project, your exhibition “La Ciudada Nuclear” within F-Orma opens on 9 July in Burgos at the Espacio Tangente Contemporary Art Creation Center, can you tell us how exhibition photos we will see are born?

This is a project that was sitting in my head for a long time. The first time I was in la Ciudad nuclear 6 years ago, and I went just cause I wanted to visit the abandoned nuclear powerplant. But in the years after I never stopped to think about the city and its inhabitants: this typical soviet city lost in a remote corner of a Caribbean island … I spent a lot of time in soviet suburbs, I’m used to this kind of architecture, but there was something unusual as a surround, the palms, the Cadillacs from the 50’s and the vibes of Cuban people. I complained a lot with my self for ignoring such an important part of that place. I thought about it so long that in the end I decided to go back and to chose as a subject something more than just the powerplant: the town, its people, its ghosts and its memories.

Choose a photo of the project and tell us what’s behind the photo, the day that led to that shot

I shot this picture the first time I went to la Ciudad nuclear. After crossing the bay with an old, rusty boat, I arrived in this small, lost village, I knew the powerplant was somewhere there, but I didn’t know where and how far. 
And I didn’t know if people were fine with giving me indications about the location or they didn’t want to have curious around.
It actually didn’t take me much time to find where it was and somebody keen to bring me there by car, but once I arrived I had a bad surprise: there was a guard, who didn’t allow me to enter. I almost cried, explaining to him that I was coming from Europe just cause of that place and he finally allowed me to stay for one hour. If it was for me, I would have stayed one day … Of course, one hour was not much and when 2 years ago I went back there, I tried again to go to the facilities. This time they built up a wall around the powerplant and there was a military force watching it.
I tried again to ask authorization to get in, this time there was nothing to discuss: I could not get in anymore …

When I first saw “La Ciudad Nuclear” I came up with a quote from Diane Arbus “If you scrutinize reality closely enough, if in some way you really, really get to it, it becomes fantastic” and i think it’s pretty perfect for your project. How you create a relationship with the subjects of your photos to have an intimate connetion with them? How does this look at even painful realities as it translates for you from a technical point of view?

Cuba is a very friendly environment for photographers, people are quite open and curious, having an intimate connection with Cubans is much faster than in other countries.
Anyway also here some empathy is required: when I enter a painful reality like this one, or even more crucial, I always try to make people feeling comfortable with me. I explain why I’m there and what I’m doing, and I ensure that I’m taking pictures just of subjects that I consider interesting, I talk and smile a lot to the people, I listen to them and when I understand they are not comfortable I make my steps back, eventually, I put the camera in the bag, also if sometimes I suffer a lot for this, but the first thing for me is always the mood of the people. When I have a long time to build a connection is much easier, of course.

During F-Orma exhibition tour your project will be seen by people who live in very distant places, they speak very different languages, in short, many different eyes (and lives) on your photos. Observing is your job give them all a tip to see (think) without prejudice and have a clear vision, like a photographer

The main thing I learned in these years of traveling is that I have to be tolerant in front of new persons, cultures, things. There is not “right” and “wrong”, especially when you meet with very difficult cultures. If you have time to understand the reasons that push people to a certain behavior, you will probably understand that what you were considering “different” or even “wrong” is always just a matter of point of view and if you manage to watch from the perspective of somebody else you will see it in a different way. I guess, more point of view you consider to observe something the vision will be clearer.

What’s your next exhibition project?

One more social photography project, once again in South America. It’s about the Popoo Lake and the people who live there. A few years ago the lake totally dried out and almost all the fishermen left. Somebody is still there, hoping that the lake will come back. I drove all around the lake, meeting the last inhabitants (not many anymore) The lake is huge and one side is a very remote area, it took a few days to drive around it. It will be exposed on the 1st of October in Berlin, on the occasion of EMOP. 

The thing you missed the most during the lockdown and what you understood that you can do without?

I was quite lucky with the lockdown, I spent it in Kiev, Ukraine, it was not too strict, I was in quite a new environment, I had something to explore, I didn’t miss much to be honest, if not my family and my friends.

Which is the photo you would have liked to take?

As you see from my pictures, I’m not so much for the perfect picture, I’m more attracted by the story that they tell. 
When the soviet union felt, Boris Mihailov made 3 series documenting 3 phases: the 1st one, when people, used to have support from the state, are stuck, waiting for support once more, the 2nd one documents the moment that people realize this time there’s not gonna be support and they start to react. The 3rd one, with a totally different aesthetic that doesn’t really belong to me, but I like for the concept, where Mihailov takes pictures of homeless people, showing how ended up the part of society that didn’t manage to rely on themself.
This is a story that I would have loved it was mine.

What’s your comfort food?

For sure something sweet, I would say ice cream! During the quarantine, I enjoyed sgushenka (Ukrainian condensed milk) and I loved it.
Even a good Pizza is comfort food for me (pretty obvious!)
And last but not least: breakfast with cappuccino and cornetto with apricot jam, preferably sitting at the table of a bar in a road with trees, while I read a magazine … Don’t forget that I’m an immigrant … I need the taste of home sometimes.

find out other stories, projects, journeys by Yuri: http://yurisegalerba.com/ http://instagram.com/yuriorbital/

Yuri Segalerba “la Ciudad nuclear”
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