JOHN PETER ASKEW is an artist who uses a camera to see the world. He began to make photographs when studying at Sunderland University, and since graduating he has shown in many of the most important galleries and festivals across Europe. His exhibition at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art – entitled We – marks a homecoming to the region.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Askew, who grew up in Northumberland, began to focus on the state of Europe and began travelling the continent. In the 1990s he found something special in the very easternmost city in Europe – Perm, in Russia. The city is 1,000 kilometres east of Moscow, well outside the centre of power.

There, he saw a way of life that was not about the endless grind of making money, but one where ordinary life was dignified, and people treated each other with respect. Despite a lack of wealth in the transition to capitalism after 1991, people seemed to possess a very real sense of freedom, and of community.

When starting to visit the country, he befriended an ordinary Russian family called the Chulakovs, and many of these photographs feature the multiple generations of that family together going about their daily lives. Askew's work often captures domestic scenes, but he helps us see a special beauty in perfectly ordinary moments. In presenting hundreds of images together, taken over two decades, he allows us to see the rich tapestry of Russian life, across an epic timescale worthy of a great Russian novel.

Although he spends much of his time now in London, Askew spends parts of each year in the North-East, as well as Perm.

* John Peter Askew: We – Photographs from Russia 1996-2017, June 15 - August 18

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL