Matter and Time | by Ivan Kardashev

My name is Ivan. I was born in Moscow in 1992. “Matter and Time” is a personal documentary project narrating about my military service in the Russian army. The story began when I was 20 years old. I grew up in a conservative and patriarchal family. For my parents, there was no question of whether a man is obliged to serve, and I couldn’t make a move in this regard myself. Until now, the military service in Russia is mandatory for all men from 18 to 27 years old, who don’t have a health or study exemption, or (in most cases) the opportunity to give a bribe to buy off. The service lasts one year.
The army is a very representative cross-section of modern Russian society — extremely patriarchal and largely based on a culture of violence. And this is the powerful institution, enforcing social and gender standards which I never matched. There, I found myself face to face with a world of fear and suppression, in front of which I was almost defenseless. Constant psychological pressure and a sense of looped time were two basic components of existence for most conscripts. Due to the rigid schedule and the monotony of daily routines, the connections between the past and present days began to obliterate. Only infinite “now” existed.
One of my duties was the protocol filming of the events and military training that took place in our unit — so from time to time I had access to the camera. I was already passionate about photography and I tried to shoot something for myself when I had the opportunity — mostly because it was one of the few practices that could give meaning to what was happening.
Sometimes I felt sinking in despair. Then it retreated, the reality grew clear and I experienced moments of beauty and unity with the world — just as I did at any other place. On the worst days it seemed like the service would never end. Then it was over, and photography turned out to be the only way for me to tell about this experience.
Every year in Russia about 260 thousand people are going through mandatory military service (approximate numbers for the 2018—2021 period, and about 300 thousand for 2013, when this story was filmed). For many of them this becomes a traumatic event affecting their entire lives.


Ivan Kardashev is a visual and sound artist, curator and editor of Peripheral Vision projections. Working in the field of personal documentary. Interested in themes of time, trauma and transformative experience. Born in 1992, currently live and work in St. Petersburg, Russia. Musician aka Kaaye.

Instagram: @ivankardashev
Photo Essay edited by Alejandra Martínez Moreno