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Putin Fan Club | Photographing Russia's Personality Cult
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Putin Fan Club | Photographing Russia's Personality Cult

Picture of Ewa Zubek
VP Social
Updated: 13 December 2015
Hungarian photographer Bela Doka has travelled the world in pursuit of thought-provoking photography, capturing people from Cuba to Burma and beyond. We catch Doka in-between journeys and talk to him about his work, and the Putin Fan Club project, which portrays a young Russian generation devoted to their country’s controversial leader.
© Bela Doka

Hi Bela, thanks for joining us for this interview. What do you care about the most when taking photographs?

The thing I care the most is that it’s my own idea when I take photos and enjoy the process. In the last few years, I’ve only been focusing on personal, mostly long-term projects.

Tell us about the Putin Fan Club series.

I photographed the Putin series in 2007, as an assignment for a Russian magazine. I worked with a fantastic assistant who helped me get full access to these young people’s homes. I loved the banality of the idea, and tried to capture it as something of a strangely personal, home and fashion project, without dealing at all with the political aspect. I was simply interested in having a personal look inside these young people’s lives.

© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka

What’s the next big project we can expect from Bela Doka?

My next project is called Studio Panindigan. I spent 4 months in a remote fishing village called Panindigan in Palawan Island, Philippines. I set up a makeshift studio in my neighbor’s yard and invited the locals to portray them. I treated the series like my own private movie casting as I found that some of the people really had movie-like characters (at least I had that feeling).

I had a great time with these people in my studio. It is a totally personal project, and I went back again this year for a few weeks more to complete and hopefully publish a book on the project.

© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka

How would you describe the current photography landscape in your country?

I stopped commercial photography in the last few years, pursuing my hobby-architecture projects, building and designing guest houses once a year, which allows me to be free from the world of photography.

Tell us your favourite book (and it doesn’t have to be about photography!).

There are too many to list!

© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka

What’s the single most valuable piece of advice you ever got?

As Lee Freelander once said ‘Do what you have to do!’

© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka
© Bela Doka

All photographs © Bela Doka

Words: Bela Doka/Ewa Bianka Zubek