February 21, 2012: Five young women, dressed in colorful tights and balaclavas, entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, and began singing, “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, chase Putin out/Chase Putin out, chase Putin out.” This political performance piece “punk prayer” ensured the group Pussy Riot twenty-one months in jail on charges of “hooliganism” for opposing the Putin government and “undermining the moral foundations of Russia.”
In Russia, “prisoners of conscience,” people who have chosen a non-violent path, are jailed for their beliefs, color of skin, gender, sexual orientation or solidarity for freedom of expression. So while a punk movement may seem mundane in the United States, being a punk in Russia is considered an affront to the nation.
Meet the “gentle punks,” a group of young “hooligans” in St. Petersburg, Russia who, just as you would expect, live on the fringes of society, but who are additionally marginalized by a police state that arrests them for their activism or creative expression. The following images are merely a glimpse into this world of young punks who are united inside their communal homes and mutual “antifa” or antifascist animosity towards the Putin government. Despite their harsh exterior and political leanings, their story of discontented youth in limbo is a universal story that is relatable across cultures. One I continue telling through the documentation of other like-minded youth.
Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Cassandra Giraldo is a freelance photojournalist currently based in Brooklyn, New York. She is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and her work on Occupy Wall Street, Superstorm Sandy and "The Gentle Punks" have been exhibited both locally and abroad.
She graduated from Skidmore College in 2011 with a BA in International Affairs and French after which she completed the Photojournalism & Documentary Studies Program at the International Center of Photography in 2012.
She speaks fluent French and is working to improve her family's native tongue of Spanish (soy mitad Colombiana). She is available for all journalistic, commercial or event related work and is willing to go on assignment both domestically and abroad.
Selected Clients & Publications Include: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Brooklyn Paper, Le Journal de la Photographie, The Gothamist, Jay Peg's, Transportation Alternatives, The Brooklyn Museum, French American Cultural Exchange Program, The French Embassy.
Track her movements in and out of assignment on Instagram (@casssgiraldo) & Twitter (@CassGiraldo)
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