When Gary Matoso and I went on that first trip across Russia, in 1995, we brought along enough cords, adapters, floppy disks, rolls of film and batteries to open our own pop-up Best Buy. At that time, it would have been virtually impossible to replace anything that got lost or broken on the road, so we made sure we had at least two of everything.
In the summer of 1976, when I was nine, my mother decided she’d like to visit the Soviet Union. My father was a US Navy pilot, the Cold War was in full swing, and Russians, as far as I knew, were our sworn enemies. What in the world was my mother thinking, going there on vacation?
… the photographer Gary Matoso and I decided to take a three-month trip across Russia. He had a prototype digital camera, a giant Kodak DCS 420, and the crazy notion that we could post stories and photos in real time to a website as we traveled. This, at a time when just 14% of Americans had ever been on the Internet.
Back in 1995, when digital cameras hadn’t become a thing and just 14% of Americans had ever been online, Gary Matoso came up with the radical and slightly insane idea to create a real-time Web travelogue across Russia.
I’m thrilled to announce that on January 31, 2017, St. Martin’s Press will publish my first non-collaborative book, Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia. The book chronicles my 20 years’ worth of interviews with ordinary Russians, from research scientists on Lake Baikal, to the Jewish community of Birobidzhan, to a group of gay friends in Novosibirsk, to a maverick farmer in Buryatia.