This project by Ukrainian photo-duo Synchrodogs is about Misha Koptev (pictured above) – A 45-year-old Ukrainian designer from Lugansk (Ukrainian city that is on the bottom of the rating of Ukrainian cities due to statistics about unemployment, drugs, alcohol, crimes etc.) Misha is amongst the people not having any job, money, or stability. He doesn’t know how to sew, he didn’t study design nor fashion, he does not know of fashion news from around the world, watches no TV, Internet, nor reads Magazines. In 1993, Misha Koptev created (not officially stated by papers) the Theatre of Provocative Fashion Orchid, and since that time, the entrance fee is no more than 0.6 euro for a person to come and watch the show.
“All of the people in the pictures have no money; they drink too much alcohol and create provocative fashion shows in crappy local bars, working merely to earn a bottle of vodka and some pocket change. Misha himself is a genius born in the Ukrainian ghetto; his clothes represent Ukrainian lifestyle to some extent.
We found his phone number and were reaching him from time to time to arrange us coming to his city for shooting, but he was always saying something like ‘I dont know’, ‘maybe’, ‘someday’. We called him once and said decisively ‘tomorrow at 12 we meet’, took a 10 hour train and just met.
The shooting took place partly in his mother’s flat, in a room of where he stores his clothes. All the outfits are on the floor assorted with garbage, bugs, dirt, boxes, and bones of dead animals he found on the street and is used for his collections. A large amount of his clothes is stolen by the “models” (as some of them were imprisoned before, some are pregnant, some are sick, or just have not got the money to live decently). He buys clothes at flea markets, cuts some parts with scissors, puts the crystals and strasses on, and does the make-up and old school body art. In his city, he is truly a scandalous personality; he says, ‘If I come to the police and say I am Misha Koptev they put me into prison without explaining the crime’ ” – Synchrodogs.
About the current situation in Lugansk, Synchrodogs explain:
”Now Misha lives on territory occupied by Russians and cannot do any provocative shows, it’s not Ukraine now, it’s an occupied part of it, where there is no tolerance to Ukrainians, no tolerance to gay community, no tolerance to contemporary art or anything modern, that doesn’t go in line with USSR standards. Russian terrorists destroyed and occupied Ukrainian art foundation Izolyatsia in Donetsk, so it’s like downshift-evolution there.”
In 2015 Misha had His first big performance in over five years shown in Kiev, as a part of the contemporary art biennial The School of Kiev.
This article first appeared in Dry Magazine – The Inequality Issue. List of stockists here.