The race to the White House and back

In May 2010 I had a chance to join the Dutch minister of Economic Affairs, Mrs. Maria van der Hoeven, and a delegation of business men on a short trip to the Siberian gas fields north of the Russian city of Novy Urengoy. First we would fly to Moscow, where the minister would meet the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Mr. Viktor Zubkov. The meeting should take place in the White House, the seat of the Russian cabinet, in the centre of Moscow.

Our plane landed at about 11.00 AM on the small airport of Ostafyevo, south of Moscow. We had to be back before 15.00 PM to catch the plane to Novy Urengoy. There was little over 3 hours time to go to the White House through the infamous Moscow traffic, have the meeting and get back to the airport. The minister set off in a limousine, and I was lucky to be allowed in the minibus that would follow her.

The drivers drove like hell. Preceded by a police car on the MKAD ring road we raced between the slow traffic on the leftmost lane and the concrete median barrier with speeds up to 100 km/h. In the city, traffic lights were ignored as much as possible. Miraculously, we arrived at the White House without a scratch, had the meeting, and then the race commenced again, in the other direction. Thanks to the incredible skills of the drivers we arrived just in time.

I had never been in Russia before. Being born in 1958, my image of the country was formed during the years of the Cold War, and so I was very curious how it had changed since then. As soon as we drove off, I started photographing through the windows of the minibus. During the rides back and forth I took about 500 pictures from the moving vehicle. On the next pages you can see a small selection of the results.