Cassandra Giraldo

The Gentle Punks
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Nationality: American
Biography:                   Originally from Los Angeles, California, Cassandra Giraldo is an independent photojournalist based in Brooklyn, New York. She has spent the last three years freelancing as a newspaper... read on
Public Story
The Gentle Punks
Credits: cassandra giraldo
Updated: 02/05/14

"To me, punk rock is freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be succesful, freedom to be who you are. It's freedom."

-Patti Smith

While the punk movement’s glory days seem to have come and gone in the United States, being a punk in many countries including Russia is considered an affront to the nation.

In the summer of 2013, I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia for a weeklong photo workshop with the intention of unraveling the reality behind the group Pussy Riot’s infamous performance piece that put them behind bars. During this period, I serendipitously met a group of young male punk youth who surprised me with their warmth, hospitality, and “gentleness” as they welcomed me into their raucous world. While I had originally set out to document the “real punks” of Russia, I became less interested in their punk rebellion than in their likeness to me—discontented and ignored millennials navigating a noisy and digital globalized world with a surprising amount of sensitivity.

The powerful shared human experience of simply being young hit home when one day, one of my subjects Sasha “Lumpen” offered me a vegan plate of “Belarusian” potatoes and with a reassuring gaze said to me in broken English, "don't worry, we're gentle punks." Just like that, I was no longer the photographer or the “American girl” but a fellow twenty-something lost in our two country’s combative politics.

These young people’s interest in the global Occupy movement, in world peace, and their frustration with not being heard, while complicated by their political backdrop, are no different than the global cry heard all over the world by youth in crisis. Their story of discontented youth is one heard all over the world and one I hope to continue documenting. If not in Russia, in unsuspecting countries and places like Colombia, Indonesia, South Africa, Burma, and even East Los Angeles where young people are tapping into their anarchic energy despite the enormous risks they face from oppressive regimes and rapid urbanization.

While I haven’t been back to Russia since photographing these young people, part of me will always channel the spirit of a gentle punk: just a young voice fighting to be heard.


By Cassandra Giraldo —


Students Not Suspects

By Cassandra Giraldo / Brooklyn, NY — Students at Park Slope Collegiate, a small 6-12 public school in Brooklyn, New York, have been working for..

The After School Project

By Cassandra Giraldo / Brooklyn, NY — Summary: The @afterschoolproject  (2011-present) is an Instagram-based project that examines how..


By Cassandra Giraldo

Mother for Hire

By Cassandra Giraldo / St. Petersburg, Russia — With her career as a professional discus thrower behind her, Antonina Patoka was in search of a new line of..


By Cassandra Giraldo / Ollantaytambo, Peru — February 17, 2014: In the small town of Ollantaytambo nestled in Peru's Sacred Valley, men and women..

April & Desire

By Cassandra Giraldo / Brooklyn, NY — April Bueno and Desire Priddie are in their last year of junior high in Brooklyn, NY.  When friends,..
Join us
for more access