Dark Site


2020 - Ongoing


This project focuses on drug related crimes in Russia and the darknet influence on this process. For shooting I've used broken digital camera, which deforms images. In my opinion, this visual way emphasizes the deforming influence of drugs on the human personality and discloses relations between the darknet and us. The Darknet casts its invisible shadow over our real world. Also this visual approach accorded well with traditions of documentary photography. On one hand I don't develop my photos, on the other hand it invites us to think about the nature of the photographic images. The darknet and a digital camera have one origin — binary code.

In Russia, 25-50 percent of prisoners are serving sentences for drug-related crimes. There are two major factors for that. Firstly, drugs are easily accessible today. We have witnessed a technological revolution in this area of crime. You can buy all kinds of drugs on online marketplaces on the darknet. All you need to have is Smartphone and Tor browser. Secondly, the situation is complicated by extremely repressive legislation. Even for possession of a small amount of drugs, a person can get a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Drug addicts are one of the most discriminated groups in Russian society. I have shot people who have had sentences for drug-related crimes. I also have shot the urban landscape, the places where dealers hide "bundels" (drugs) the most often.

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  • Sergei

    When I ended up in prison, it quickly became obvious, that if I am not to take extraordinary measures, I will be dead! I offered the administration to work as a secretary. I’ve prepared reports, wrote dissertations, consulted the higher ups on legal matters. I’ve made it through, and when my time was up, I was free. As I see it, most of the inmates did time for drug possession. It’s unlikely, that they will be able to return to normal life after such an experience. Our government is only good for beating and maiming.

  • HYDRA is the world's largest darknet drug market operating in large cities in the post-Soviet space. Since its founding in 2015, its turnover has reached a billion dollars, and the number of users has exceeded a million people. There are 3000 of online stores on HYDRA. User can buy any kind of drugs and read reviews, ask questions to the support service.

  • Stas (fictional name)

    They’ve taken me with a gram of hash on my hands, while I was hitchhiking in Russia. It was enough to sentence me for a year of probation. Because drug possession is considered to be a felony, I am prohibited to work with children. Although I have a degree in Education and Child Psychology. I sincerely love my work. But because of a wrongdoing, I’ve conducted when I was eighteen years old, I have to work on semi-legal basis. I have a stigma! I’ve tried to dispute this in court, but it was unsuccessful.

  • Drugs are spread by “bundels”. After finishing the purchase, you receive the coordinates and photos of the place where the drugs are hidden. The shop couriers, called the bundelmen, hide in the secluded places of the city's "bundels" - small packages of drugs. It is attached with magnets to fences, drainpipes, electrical panels. Sometimes it is buried in parks and graveyards, hidden in entrances of multi-story buildings or industrial zones.

  • Sveta

    I am forty-nine, and I have cancer. That’s the reason why we can speak here, freely. In prison, time moves slowly, a month feels like a year. The realisation that this is the worst place on Earth comes quickly. A couple of months was enough for me to atone for my mistakes, but I did several years. People are sentenced for enormous time for crimes unrelated to violence and I cannot understand why.

  • The police benefit from the current state of affairs. It is easy to catch drug users, and the cases solved increase the positive statistics. Most of the sentences are related to drug possession, the rest are petty dealers and bundelmen.

  • Tons of psychoactive substances are sold and bought on Hydra, every day making bookmarks with drugs for 3 million dollars. A dark parallel world invisible to the naked eye, but influencing the behavior and destinies of people and changing the urban space.

  • Sergei

    I used drugs like a madman, lived in a den. But when the police started hunting for me, I’ve decided to quit: either jail or withdrawal. It turned out that finding a decent rehabilitation centre is a no easy task. In Russia, one cannot openly voice one’s drug problems without some kind of infringement of rights. Because of that rehabilitation is a shadow business without any guarantees. I was lucky to end up at a Protestant centre. After a couple of years, I was able to reintegrate into society with no fear of a relapse. Now I have a wife, a job and an apartment. I’m incredibly lucky! With that in mind, I try to volunteer for and support people suffering from drug abuse.

  • A smartphone is a door and a key at the same time. For consumers, this is a tool for buying and searching for drugs, and for dealers, a tool for making money. A bundelmen take pictures of a places where a drugs are hidden and, together with a coordinates, send a data to a store where a transaction is made.

  • Camila
    "I was convicted of drug possession. Now this is a stigma on my life. I work as a bartender in an informal job."

  • About $ 3 million worth
    of treasures are made daily on Hydra.As of December 2020, an average of 137000 deals were initiated by buyers every day on HYDRA.

  • The urban space is literally filled with drugs. Thousands of drug “bundels” are hidden in the cities. This forms another layer of the city. The shadow of the darknet, falling on the city, forms an invisible, but at the same time real world.

  • Anna and Ilya. They both served a suspended sentence for drug possession.

    "First of all, I'm afraid of condemnation! In principle, I don't really trust people, although I try. And secondly, I run into problems with work. Every time I go for an interview, I put a check mark on the criminal record in the questionnaire. And I am not hired. Now I have been working remotely for a Czech company." Anna said.

  • Sometimes dealers (bundelman) hide drugs underground, next to a good landmark. A person searching in the bushes near your house is most likely a drug addict. The flashlight of a smartphone in the darkness of the yard is also a familiar sight for modern citizens. Even those who are not connected with the drug world are now aware of it, seeing the new behavioral habits of citizens.

  • Ivan
    “At the time, I just moved to St. Petersburg, I was making money by streaming. To maintain tone and relaxedness, I started using amphetamine and mephedrone! One evening I went to pick up the bundel and was caught by the police. They took me to the police station, offered to resolve this issue, but I had no money. As a result, the judge gave me two years probation. I returned to my hometown to my parents. They did not talk to me on this topic, I tried to go to a psychotherapist, but he treated me with contempt. I started using drugs again! But in one moment, I met a girl and fell in love with her. Now we live in St. Petersburg, and I don't use drugs. I have a job, but before finding it, I was rejected several times due to a criminal record."