Portraits of Women Guarding Exhibits in Russian Art Museums

In Russian art museums, older ladies are hired as guards for the pieces in the collections. Photographer Andy Freeberg noticed that these women were a constant part of the visitors’ viewing experience, silently hovering near the artworks as they’re being enjoyed. Finding these women “as intriguing to observe as the pieces they watch over”, he decided to photograph them alongside the works they’re tasked with guarding. The project is titled “Guardians of Russian Art Museums“.

In the project statement, Freeberg writes that the women feel very connected to their jobs:

In conversation they told me how much they like being among Russia’s great art. A woman in Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery Museum said she often returns there on her day off to sit in front of a painting that reminds her of her childhood home. Another guard travels three hours each day to work, since at home she would just sit on her porch and complain about her illnesses, “as old women do.” She would rather be at the museum enjoying the people watching, surrounded by the history of her country.

What’s fascinating to me is that each of the women seems to somehow match the paintings and sculptures they’re protecting, whether intentionally or not. Notice the colors, the poses, and the facial expressions.

You can check out the entire project over on Freeberg’s website. The work has also been published as a book.

Guardians of Russian Art Museums (via Flavorwire)

Image credits: Photographs by Andy Freeberg and used with permission

  • Mark Duncan

    I remember seeing them at the Hermitage. These ladies are vigilant,
    fearless and not to be messed with!

  • Russ Catalano

    [Insert ‘In Soviet Russia’ Joke Here]

  • Sasha

    Not really… they’re some of the nicest people you’ll find there. They listen in to all the excursions that go through, and now every tidbit of information about the paintings in their area.

    They don’t really like it though when a 7 year old tries to mess with their interactive displays though…

  • Mark Duncan

    I did not mean, and did not say, that they were not nice people, though most of the ones I saw were rather stern. I was complimenting their ability to do their jobs.

  • carlos

    nice work

  • Anis Mohiuddin

    There are so many reasons people work for. Not wanting to complain as ‘old women do’ is one such reason!