From Author


I hope, that you are a thankful spectator and will not throw the book that you are holding right now in your hands from the roof of your house, trying to hit an open manhole. I am not an elected deputy and do not deserve this sort of honour. The book can be used as sofa support. You can tear some pages out and stick them on your forehead. The book can be frozen for five thousand years like Fry from Futurama. Or it can be buried in the ground. If you put it between the books of Burroughs and Bukowski, it will kill me as well.

It is self-published book right now. But who knows, maybe in a year the professional publisher will appear. He will call me and say something. I will be happy and will think, there you go again, I will be 100 persons more famous and 100 dollars richer. And next morning the society will wake me up and whisper that it is back and will never ever leave me.


I’m not going to say much. I’m not planning to go around labelling things, either. What this photo story is about – I do not know myself. And it’s for better. If I knew – I would surely say. The title “Quiet ward” was suggested by Igor Mukhin. The picture must speak for itself. The photography must be black and white. And the book must be named “Quiet ward”. There is a little of everything in it. Actually, I would be quite happy if the whole thing would be left unedited, dishevelled, in no particular order and unnamed. But – albeit unwillingly – I have to move ahead.

The story started from the last photograph that I made in my life. In this book, it is the one before the last. I took it with my eyes closed. People in the picture are the clinical psychiatrists during the primary inspection of a patient, that is me. And the name of this photograph, for some reason, is “The cemetery of dead Jedi”. At that moment, during the inspection, standing there blinking, I thought that my life is over and that this black and white picture would be the last thing I ever took in my life.

Instead of saying how good or bad everything is (every five minutes there is a bomb explodes somewhere): “the grandpa-Lenin-who-sleeps-and-lives-in-our-hearts” has just come and complained about the insulted worms in his womb. He hissed something about the sales of Haloperidol that rose thank to me; the hospital food is not possible to eat at all, because it became tastier; the white doctors’ smocks became even whiter; the queues – more acute; and whatever we call “common” does not stink that much anymore; the wars will be smaller, everything will be even funnier, because everyone wants to be a goody; in a thousand years I will be honoured with a letter of gratitude for the fact that I’m presently alive; the pension just got raised for extra 2 and half kopecks, causing the death of some granny one minute later then it should’ve actually happen; the computers are generally accepted as idiots that ought to be simply used; sad and penitent Vanya Sirotkin mops the floors as a punishment for having high-humidity dreams about Putin; and I’ve just received a social package worth a price of a stick of a popular Doctor’s sausage and also a doozy of a black eye for I everything I did.

It happened to Vanya that he got sick. And it also happened that he ended up in our “first department number one”. It was the time, when he got acquainted with psychiatrists. It so happened that the first Vanya’s doctor turned out to be very humane. It seems to me they respected each other. It was important at that time to everyone to accept the existence of the disease and to agree on the rules of the future game. Naturally, Vanya misbehaved from time to time: he could get drunk or ditch on his medicine. Even when the person is ill, there is still a lot of space, time and opportunities in his life to remain himself. So, Vanya started to live with his illness and, as it happened, with his talent.

One day Vanya showed me his pictures of one of the Moscow railway stations. There you could see the things that we normally go by without paying attention, without noticing that they are actually amusing or sad or in some other way interesting. Our Vanya could see it and he passed it on to us in his black and white photographs.

That is when we came up with the idea of Vanya shooting in our Quiet Department. We agreed not to take pictures of those who does not want to be photographed and, especially, of the ones who does not feel well on that day. This young man manages somehow to make pictures that live their own life. Looking at them, I sometimes see patients’ faces and sometimes our familiar surroundings. I know these people; know their problems, their personality and some things about their lives outside of the clinic. The most important thing is that, besides illness, they all have strength for jokes, friendship, for understanding the problems of those around.

Vanya takes pictures in different states of his complex mind. I like his “spoons-plates”, parts of walls and windows, but there is some kind of “a dark touch” to his work. It unnerves me at times. Vanya became an inseparable part of our rounds of the ward. We always discover something new about ourselves as a whole, when we see a fresh series of his photographs. Sometimes he is just hanging around the department and takes the pictures of everything. This is how attendants with trays, nurses with droppers, doctors’ hands, fishes, doors and a man hugging the good tree appear.

Head of the first general psychiatric department of the S.S. Korsakov Clinic.
Anna K. Novitskaya