Day of the Cosmonauts

by Thomas

Yuri Gagarin: the man, the legend.


You can’t beat April 12th, the Soviet Union’s Day of the Cosmonauts, for its nostalgia value. Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first man in space, remains the center of what is probably the most enchanting narrative of the Soviet Union: on this day in 1961 he spent 108 minutes in orbit, thereby scoring one of the USSR’s most enduring Cold War victories and sending NASA into sheer panic.

I spent the day with a group of my best film students at a beautiful dacha outside Baku, on the Absheron peninsula. We dined, I photographed, we explored black rocky shores on the Caspian Sea, and spent many inspiring hours working on the rough cut for their film. Manzar read a poem at dinner in Azerbaijani. I understood nothing, but still felt the sting of tears.

State of the Caspian: waters calm and clear. A rare day with no wind.