THU TO SUN 10.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m.

Sarah Blesener 

“Beckon Us From Home”

Location: USA, RUSSIA

In 2015, a proposed program from the Russian government entitled the “Patriotic Education of Russian Citizens in 2016-2020” called for an eight percent increase in patriotic youth within the next ten years, and a ten percent increase in new recruits for the Russian armed forces.Over 200,000 youth in Russia are currently enrolled in patriotic clubs, with 10,000 in Moscow alone.

While focusing on Russia, the aim of this project is to investigate the ideologies and traditions passed down to younger generations. I had hoped these images would spark conversations about the polarization and nationalist rhetoric that marked the last United States presidential campaign, as well as trends happening globally. However, they did not. When these photographs were published in 2016, the overwhelming response from the American media and public centered on Russian nationalism and the moral dilemmas surrounding militarization of youth. The most common reaction was that “other people are nationalists, but Americans are simply patriots.”

In light of this frustration, I began to photograph similar themes of patriotic ideology and educational programs across the United States in 2018, in an attempt to discuss these themes on a larger level. The resulting project became Beckon Us From Home. In later publications, these two projects, Toy Soldiers and Beckon Us From Home, have been published together as a single project. When presented as a whole, it can be nearly impossible to distinguish which programs are Russian or American. This approach intentionally causes further confusion about ideological allegiance, patriotism, and nationalism, in an attempt to re-examine our relationship to our beliefs surrounding our own traditions and nations.


Sarah Blesener is a documentary photographer based in New York City. Born in Minneapolis,  Minnesota, she studied Linguistics and Youth Development. While in University, she worked as  a photographer for the organization Healing Haiti based in Port au Prince, Haiti, covering events  surrounding the 2010 earthquake. Upon graduation, she studied at Bookvar Russian  Academy in Minneapolis, concentrating on the Russian language. She is a graduate of the Visual  Journalism and Documentary Practice program at the International Center of Photography in  New York. Her latest work revolves around ideologies amongst youth in Russia, Eastern Europe,  and the United States. She was recipient of the Alexia Foundation grant for her 2017 work in  the United States, and was also a 2017 fellow with Catchlight, working with Reveal from The  Center for Investigative Reporting. In 2018, she was a recipient of the Eugene Smith Fellowship.  In 2019, her personal project, Beckon Us From Home, received a first place prize in the Long Term Project category of World Press Photo.