A small series dedicated to the Ladas of St Petersburg in all their beauty and diversity
The first Lada was manufactured in 1970 Soviet Russia, inspired by the Italian 124 model Fiat. The look and brand of the car has become an iconic symbol of Russia. We interview Till Rimmele with TR Photography about his Lada series in St Petersburg.
Prospekt Magazine: What made you decide to take pictures of Ladas in St Petersburg?
Till Rimmele: I’ve never been to a post-Soviet country and I was in St Petersburg for the first time in my life. I saw the abundance of these old cars and figured this would be a great series.
Over time I realised not all the cars that I photographed were Ladas. So [the interest] came naturally.
There was this one significant moment when I was walking with a friend and there stood this Lada completely abandoned in a field. A complete still life. It’s the white one [number 8] with the shoe on the top. We walked there to investigate further and you couldn’t place this better. You couldn’t make this up and I took a picture. I looked at it again, talked to my friend again and the idea developed over time.
PM: Was that your favourite Lada?
TR: Hmmm, no. The most favourite one was probably number 12 in the pictures because you could see that this Lada was still used by a family. It was maintained. There was a child seat. It was very much alive.
PM: What would say the condition of most of Ladas are?
TR: Drivable. Most of them have minor problems like scratches and dents. Sometimes they have cracked windshields, the bumpers might be off. Minor things, but they all seem to be in drivable condition. None of them are really pristine, only a very few are in really good condition. That’s why [number 12] was an exception. You could see that somebody took care and took out the dents.
PM: Do you have a preference of what kind of camera to use for the Lada pictures?
TR: No. Mainly because you never know when you will see a good Lada. So you have to work with the camera that you have with you.
I work more with a perspective. If you look at the pictures, the perspective and the way that the pictures are shot, they are very much the same. There are certain patterns of details like the hood ornaments and the angle on the Ladas themselves––front ones, side ones, on the left and on the right.
PM: Has there ever been a funny or awkward incident when you were trying to take a picture of a Lada?
TR: There is most certainly. There is this Lada with AK47 backlights. I saw it on Vasilievsky and I snapped a picture. The picture wasn’t great, but it would have worked.
Then in the winter, I walked down this car fixing district of Primorskaya, into this backyard and all of a sudden this same Lada was there along with the owner standing next to it with all his friends. And they were proper gopniks. I was like: ‘Can I take a picture of your car [number 18]?’
He looked at me said: ‘Who are you?’
I replied, ‘I’m a German photographer, and I really like your car.’
He said, ‘you’re a German photographer and you want to take a picture of my Lada? Why?’
‘Because it’s great, I love the backlights.’
‘OK,’ and they let me go ahead and we had a cigarette.
Till Rimmele is a German photojournalist currently based in St Petersburg. His work focuses primarily on human condition, such as refugees living in Berlin, #undergroundpeople and is currently working on the Cost of a Mile in Ukraine. The Lada project highlights how a nostalgic association with Soviet Russia continues to linger in St Petersburg today.
Check out our #ladaoftheweek and tell us about your own experiences with Ladas with pictures or drop us a line.