Controversial Photos Inside The Homes Of Russia’s Ultrarich Show The Country’s Problem With Wealth Inequality

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

Russia has greater economic disparity than any other major global power. In 2014, Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report said the wealthiest 10% of people in Russia controlled 85% of the country’s wealth. Additionally, the report said 111 billionaires controlled 19% of the country’s total household wealth. This discrepancy is what photographer Lilia Li-Mi-Yan set out to explore in her series “Masters and Servants,” an intimate view of Russia’s elite photographed within their homes alongside their hired help.

h/t: businessinsider

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

According Li-Mi-Yan, finding the employers to photograph wasn’t difficult. “These were mostly people that I was acquainted with,” she said. “Most of them agreed to take part in my project with enthusiasm.”

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

Before each shoot, Li-Mi-Yan would meet with the subjects to discuss and explain the project.

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

“I had long conversations with my subjects in their homes,” she said. “I asked about their roles as employers and employees, how their status made them feel, and what their relationships looked like.”

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

These conversations helped Li-Mi-Yan decide how to stage the photographs. Her subtle yet critical placement of the subjects speaks to their relationships.

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

Gender plays a large role in the staff’s duties — women are usually housekeepers, babysitters, or governesse.

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

“In Russia, a governess or a babysitter or a driver is reckoned to be a [lower-class] job,” Li-Mi-Yan said. Some employees refused to be photographed, wanting to avoid the label of “housekeeper.”

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

“Most of the employers think that they treat their employees with respect and care. However, most of the ‘servants’ — regardless of whether their relations with employers are in fact full of warmth and respect — wish to save up some money and find another kind of job,” she said.

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan
Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

“I met only one old woman who chose that kind of work on her own will and not because of constraining circumstances,” Li-Mi-Yan said.

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

Photo © by Lilia Li-Mi-Yan

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