Moscow’s secret base put in focus by Newham headteacher

Mitch Karanaratne Star City

Mitch Karanaratne Star City - Credit: Archant

Following recent political turmoil and the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia is again in focus with an exhibition in Plaistow.

The Moscow Project, at the new Tower Gallery, comes from photographic collective MAP6, which includes Mitch Karunaratne, headteacher of Kaizen Primary School in Elkington Road, Plaistow.

She is featuring her work alongside five other photographers who were inspired by the way humans emotionally connect to their environment.

The images capture varied impressions of the sprawling metropolis.

Mitch’s project focused on the highly secretive space research centre, Star City, hidden deep in a forest and surrounded by barbed wire.

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After finally being allowed into the cosmonaut training compound, she documented her week there, exploring the role place and history had on Russian consciousness.

Mitch said: “I gained access through a friend whose son was an engineer. The Russians have a strong and passionate attachment to the space programme.

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“I was looking at how legacies can be seen in the present, and how places can capture the spirits and ideas of a group of people.”

Mitch added that the exhibition portrays individual perspectives of the city and themes like the relationship between above and below ground.

She said: “I think, because of the weather, so much life in Russia happens underground.

“One of the photographers, Chloe, spent a week almost entirely underground in the metro documenting people.”

Contributor Paul Walsh walked the circular “Brown Line” above ground, built after architects thought Stalin had left a coffee cup stain on a metro map as a sign to do so, or so it is alleged.

Mitch said she was enthusiastic about exhibiting so locally to the school where she worked and linked her creativity and her passion for teaching.

She said: “I believe that, to ensure that young children love learning, we can ignite a lifelong commitment in their primary years to want to improve themselves.

“That is what I am doing through my photos. I want to make sure that I am valuing the ethos which I hold central to the school’s values.”

The Moscow Project is at Tower Gallery, in the bell tower of Memorial Community Church, Barking Road. Admission is free. Contact 020 7474 6603 for more information.

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