A guide to the New East
Photography

Sunglasses, sweets, a saw: just some of the delights in Russian women’s bags

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From fashion glossies to YouTube videos, “What's in your bag?” appears to be one of the most asked question of generation Buzzfeed. Sergei Stroitelev found himself asking it as a child from the sheer disbelief that a woman could carry so much at any given time. “Women's handbags have always been a mystery to me. As a kid, I was convinced that my mum and her friends just had to carry around all sorts of magical items. I thought that was the law — in case they needed to save the world or something. As a grown man, I can't really say I find handbags and purses any less puzzling,” he says. Now a photographer, he decided to make it his mission to get the bottom of their bags and find out exactly what the treasures reveal about contemporary Russian women. “I spent the last couple of months wandering around St Petersburg, asking every woman I met ‘what's in your bag?’. Some thought I was a mugger, some thought I was insane, and some agreed. Those that did, I noticed, took great care to arrange whatever items they possessed on a black piece of cloth I carried around in my own backpack,” Stroitelev reveals. The results range from essentials such as keys and mirrors, to keepsakes, while others border on the bizarre. Perhaps a saw is a perfect accompaniment to your mascara?

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