I am sat in a café having a good plate of pasta. Nothing remarkable about this, but this is Moscow, and I still carry memories of struggling to find anything half decent to eat when I first visited this city in the early 90s. Now there are good eating places everywhere, as this is a city flush with cash. The Gucci store in downtown Moscow generates more income per sq metre than any other Gucci outlet in the world.
I came to Moscow in 1991 and photographed in the first McDonalds that opened here. There were long queues to experience this icon of the America. I still remember, with almost disbelief, the excitement and thrill of the diners. Now of course, there are Yellow arches everywhere here, and not a queue in sight.
Funnily enough, it is the only time I have been granted permission to photograph in a McDonalds. I have asked since, and always had permission declined.
This does not prevent me going in and shooting, especially in the likes of China, where being thrown out by a faintly embarrassed duty manager gives a certain thrill. And remember like speed dating, there is always another target just down the road.
Back to Moscow, where I am photographing the 2nd Millionaire’s Fair. Talk about bling, the Muscovites have no hesitation in showing off their wealth. One can buy a helicopter, mobile phones encrusted with diamonds or an apartment in Dubai.
One suspects the really wealthy do not want to be seen here, but those that do show up on the opening night are exactly what you think the wealthy should look like. The women wear the latest label, the younger women all have glowing long hair, many keep their furs on, despite the heat. Champagne is everywhere, and never seems to run out, there are people rolling cigars and handing these out, canapés come at you at every angle.
Traditionally poverty has been the front line for the concerned photographer, I am happy to reverse this, and for many years have photographed the wealth of the West. These images will all accumulate towards a suite of photographs entitled “Luxury” I am convinced that the non stop growth and the wealth we create has many problems associated with this.
The Millionaire’s Fair is in Krokus Park, an exhibition Centre about 20 KM from the centre of Moscow. Getting there can take up to 2 hours, when I return late at night, it takes 25 min, such is the congestion on Moscow’s roads.
The next stop on this wealth tour is the Chinese Motor show in Beijing next April. I must get a hotel where I can walk there, rather than being stuck in traffic.