Images for the programme: Love and Survival in the Gulag

“This looks like a great event: Orlando Figes’ Tuesday nighter, one of the opening talks of the Festival. Researching the subject makes you feel sad and angry. The human statistics of Stalin’s primitive corporate madness, digging and dying pointlessly in conditions that defy any proper understanding. This image was inspired by a grainy photograph taken in the 30s of a mother and child – probably born there – hacking at a frozen bit of ground, wrapped in rags and watched over by one of the uniformed bullies.
It’s a nod to the world’s first giant of typography, Rodchenko, obviously, and I wanted to give it as forlorn and powerful a look as I could. A woodcutty, hard, unsentimental look…”