Sergey Melnitchenko, from Ukraine, went to Hong Kong in 2015 to work in a Chinese club as a dancer for four months. Soon his everyday life was merged with his passion for photography and that was when his series Behind the scenes began. This collection of photographs would win him the title of the ‘Winner award newcomer’ in The Leica Oskar Barnack. In China, where sexual entertainment venues are often hidden from the spotlight, burlesque has become a substitute. While strip-clubs and prostitution are strictly illegal, Sergey found himself in a working environment where the atmosphere was fuelled by hormonal tensions. Although on stage it was reserved and supervised, behind the curtains a whole different world was exposed. Sergey’s photos channel the rollercoaster of emotions that the workers endured. What makes this work stand out is his understanding of this environment and his involvement.
A world in a darkened spotlight
Unlike other series of the Chinese entertainment industry, ‘my works show the everyday life of me and my colleagues’. The images seep raw emotions. Blood, sweat and tears were a natural occurrence in such surroundings. For example, the photo of a woman crying, looking into her friend’s eyes, provoke many feelings for the spectator, but for Sergey ‘it’s not shocking, just real’. Although the club had a gritty environment, there is nonetheless a feeling of family, friendship and fun. Sergey, who gives an account for his time there, doesn’t hide the farcical atmosphere that dominates here, mirrored in the series photos of the extravagant burlesque club, ‘there was a great atmosphere, each day was different to the next‘.
Having worked on a number of projects, the series, ‘Behind the Scenes’, was his first attempt at photojournalism and it was a success, gaining a large amount of coverage. It’s sharp, raw tone on a subject matter that is relevant more than ever in today’s society, Sergey Melnitchenko gives a crisp understanding through his explicit series Behind the Scenes.
Photos by © Sergey Melnitchenko