Gritty Russian Photographer Dmitry Markov Dies Age 42

Photographer Dmitry Markov
Dmitry Markov, left. His viral photo of a police officer sitting beneath a portrait of Putin, right.

Dmitry Markov, a Russian photographer who shot exclusively on smartphones and was known for capturing provincial areas around Moscow, has died at age 42.

Markov rose to fame because of his exquisite photos that depicted everyday life which he posted to his Instagram page that has almost one million followers.

Dmitry Markov photography

Dmitry Markov photography

In 2021, his photo of a police officer sitting beneath a portrait of President Putin went viral and he later sold it for two million roubles ($22,000).

In 2016, Markov participated in Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign for the iPhone 7. He was the first Russian participant and one of 15 photographers from 15 countries.

An Unlikely Photography Star

Markov was born in Pushkino, a tough industrial town north of Moscow where he spent his days sniffing glue with his friends while avoiding their alcoholic fathers. He battled drug addiction most of his life.

However through photography and blogging, Markov gradually gained attention and was awarded grants and commissions. As his fame grew and companies began hiring him, he kept his life grounded and kept his focus on documenting Russia’s gritty streets.

He moved to Pskov, a border city close to Estonia, and began working for a charity organization. It was there his camera was stolen and he switched to an iPhone for his photography.

“Quality? Screw it, I’d sketch things with a pencil if I could draw,” he wrote in a blog post.

Markov documented street protests and the famous photo of the policeman sitting beneath Putin’s picture came about after he was arrested while attending a rally in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny — who died on Friday while incarcerated in a federal penitentiary inside the Arctic Circle.


Markov’s photos borrow the color palette of old Russian paintings but his subjects were very different.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Siberia Desk, Markov explained the choice of heroes for his photographs with a story that reads like something straight out of Chekhov:

My grandmother died recently, she worked as a seamstress in a factory. Under the bed she was lying in the weeks before her death, she kept a sack of potatoes — she sewed these same sacks every day for decades. My grandma lived like this. You could call this ‘doom,’ too right? I doubt young people dream of working all their lives in a factory and dying on a mattress above a bag of potatoes.

At the same time, when I see these scenes — these [saleswomen on a cigarette break pictured above], or this bag of potatoes, I want to see the meaning and beauty in it. This is people’s life, it passes by like this. And it’s not two or three people, most people live like that. I want to capture them. Look at any magazine rack: stars and celebrities. I want to capture the simple person, to show the beauty of ordinary life.

Photographer Dmitry Markov
Markov photography
Markov’s final Instagram post of an Russian soldier who is intending to return to the front line.

His final Instagram post proved to be controversial: A sympathetic portrait of his solider friend who is planning to return to the front line of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine territory.

“I can’t stop loving people close to me and start hating them,” he wrote. “And I realize that I’m a legitimate target for hatred on the part of Ukrainians. I don’t know how to do the right thing in this situation.”

Local media outlets confirmed the news of his death with reports that his longtime girlfriend found him at their home. The cause of his death remains unknown.

Image credits: Photographs by Dmitry Markov