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Berlin photographer Nikita Teryoshin travelled to the cities of St. Petersburg, Bangkok and Atlantic City, in search of street cats for his Backyard Diaries project. He found them in the less hospitable corners of town.

LFI: Your work normally deals with socio-political issues. Why do you now turn to cats?
Nikita Teryoshin:  I’m interested in politics and socio-economic correlations; but also curious about how these correlations are reflected in relationships between people and animals. I explored this mechanism of dominance and exploitation already in my graduation project, Hornless Heritage, that focussed on the German dairy cow. When I was in St. Petersburg last year covering an arms trade fair, I discovered a number of very varied-looking cats in the backyard of my accomodation. That was the first time
I really noticed how visually fascinating they look, and how they have tremendous character. As I began to take their pictures, I realised how much fun I was having. It was a welcome change from the arms people.

Some cats really look battered. Did you ever have the feeling you had to help them?
I always had some cat food with me, which I gave them of course. However, I don’t see it as my mission to save all the cats in the world. I prefer just to draw the attention to them and their situation. I found it delightful to capture the cats from low down. I’m a big fan of Bruce Gilden’s Faces series, and I wanted to show the cats in that kind of way, as a homage. Like Gilden’s protagonists, streets cats are often overlooked, yet they are marked by the lives they lead and, compared to pedigree cats, have faces that reveal strong individual character.

Please tell us about your motivation as a photographer.
When I was twenty years old and I applied to art school, my motivation was still to change the world through my photography. Today I’d no longer go so far as to say that, though it’s not out of the question either… On the one hand, I’m interested in showing marginalised people who otherwise don’t get seen, and on the other, to photograph things that weren’t planned as such, and to break through stagings of power. A friend once described my approach as thievish pleasure, which I find quite accurate.

Do you have further plans for the series?
My plan is to produce and distribute a small run of Backyard Diaries fanzines of the pictures taken in each of the cities. After that I want to continue with the series in Istanbul and Tel Aviv.

(Interview: Denise Klink)

All images on this page © Nikita Teryoshin
Equipment:  Leica S007 with Summarit-S 70 f/2.5 Asph

Find the portfolio and the full interview in LFI 6/2020.

Nikita Teryoshin

Born in St. Petersburg in 1986, Teryoshin grew up in Dortmund, where he completed a Bachelor degree at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts. In addition to his various personal projects, he is in demand as a press and magazine photographer, regularly published in Spiegel, Zeit and Vice. Teryoshin has received a number of prestigious photo awards – most recently the World Press Photo Award 2020.

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