Project

What’s in the Bag: Metro Passengers’ Weapons in a Project by Oleg Ponomaryov

This photographer from St. Petersburg spent a year observing which contraband items Metro security officers are finding.

Oleg Ponomaryov Age 27

Born in Leningrad, earned a degree from the Galperin Department of Photojournalism. Published in Colta.ru, The Calvertjournal and Paperpaper.ru, exhibited at the Fotodoc Center of Documentary Photography. Portfolio-review winner at the “Fotoparad” international photography festival in Uglich (2014), finalist in the “Documentary Photography” category at the Baltic Biennial of Photography in Kaliningrad (2015).

This series is a part of the Checkpoint project in which I researched control and safety points in society, their contradictions and interconnections. The pictures in this series are x-rays of baggage that are carried by passengers on the St. Petersburg Metro.


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Control is delving deeper and deeper into our lives. Security cameras, phone bugs, social network monitoring and searching in public places all allow us to represent our society in the form of an x-ray, depriving ourselves of the hidden and the private.

The weirdest things I saw on x-ray were grenades and rubber dildos, which gave all the security guys a good laugh.

People feel more protected when they have personal safety means, moreover defense items (e.g., gas cartridges) have replaced weapons. But do they really give us a guarantee of safety or are they just expressions of paranoia. Aside from that, weapons are appearing more often in the entertainment world where a person shoots someone else and turns it into a game.


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At first I was having problems with Metro security because of taking pictures, but after a while they became collaborators who would call me up and say, “Get down here, there was a big haul today.” The whole thing started feeling like a crime drama. The weirdest things I saw on x-ray were grenades and rubber dildos, which gave all the security guys a good laugh. The way that police determine who to search is shrouded in mystery. On the other hand, if someone has a weapon in their baggage, official protocols kick in: documents, permissions, etc. If everything is legal and above board, they’re allowed to pass through.

Weapons have rapidly crept into our collective reality and have become, as they say on the Metro, a part of our carry-on baggage. It’s just unbelievable how many weapons passengers carry on them.


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