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"Art became my choice of sublimation, not the worst, I suppose," he writes. "Even now, more than a decade later, art is my only release."For most of his twenties, Markov volunteered or worked at orphanages and juvenile psych wards around Russia. The facilities were dismal, but Markov found community and purpose among their residents. In his monograph, which he sent to WIRED when asked for the stories behind his photographs, he talks about one of his first visits to an orphanage. While he was there, he remembers seeing a child standing alone in a hallway, "as dirty as a chimney sweep."
"Why is he so dirty?" Markov asked one of the supervisors.
"What are you here for, then?" the supervisor responded. "Take him and wash him."
To Markov, the moment was a revelation—"like the main principle of volunteering had finally caught up to me."A few years ago Markov started posting his iPhone photos on Instagram, where they quickly attracted attention; soon he began receiving magazine assignments, a grant from Getty Images, even a job offer from Apple. Although he tried living in Moscow, he found that it was easier to stay sober in Pskov, a town of about 200,000 people in northwestern Russia, near the Estonian border. He still volunteers part-time at the local orphanage, but he spends most of his time these days traveling around Russia, photographing the country’s forgotten men and women.
"It's sad to hear people say I capture the seamy side of life," he says. "I don't see anything horrible in these pictures of mine. They are not just 'social photography,' as many people see them, they are my personal encounters and scenes."
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