CNN Photos

Russia's wild costume parties

Photographer Alexander Lepeshkin spends whole nights at Clumba parties, or costume parties where the young creatives of Russia put on their most flashy and drink.

His photos capture candid moments of alcohol-enhanced connections and collapses, but he says he’s not a party photographer – he’s a youth photographer.

“I shoot young people, and the party is a place to be themselves, to be free — sometimes freaky, of course, but first of all open,” he said.

Clumba translates to “flower bed” in Russian and started as an artist collective. Young people wear wigs and costumes at these parties, which Lepeshkin says are not for everyone.

He doesn’t hide his camera, and he takes his pictures near his subjects, who sometimes try to pose for him. But unlike a party photographer who is hired to take pictures of the attendees in their crafted camera poses, he’s not looking for images to post on a club website.

“That's what I don’t like,” he said. “Because I need (a) natural state of things and natural emotions, not the imitation.”

Lepeshkin said people are more open at a party than any other occasion, perhaps as you might expect considering their deteriorating sobriety.

Some in his selection are ecstatic, but seemingly more have vacant or depressed expressions.

“Sometimes they are merry and joyful of course,” he said, “but sometimes they are also lonely, sad or tired.

“I do not want to depict party as eternal festivity. In fact, (the) party is just the cause to get close.”

Lepeshkin has been working on this project since 2010, photographing Clumba parties and clubs in St. Petersburg and Moscow. He prefers to not know the people he shoots so he can see the composition and emotions that an outsider would.

Lepeshkin has made a few friends, but late in the night they part ways when they head to the after-party and Lepeshkin heads to bed.

“Perhaps 10 years from now, these fellows and girls will grow up and settle down, and they’ll have a different look and won’t be happy to meet a person with the camera,” Lepeshkin said.

- Lauren Russell, CNN