My name is Gleb Olegovich Mikhalev. My mother is Irina Patkanian and she grew up in Leningrad. Her father was a well-known communist party member, an avid hunter, and overseer of workers. His parents worked on building the Leningrad subway system. They lived through the 900-day siege.
I identify as a Russian American New Yorker. I was born in the USSR and moved to America before my first birthday. I studied film at Bard and lived off campus in a community called Rokeby, where I had a woodstove. My senior documentary project was about a landslide and salmon weir in southeast Alaska.
When I was 20, I sailed across the Atlantic with two friends on 32-foot sailboat. That trip taught me to see in the dark, how to be bored, and to follow my intuition.
The first time I went to Alaska was through a grant to work with an environmental group protecting the Tongass National Forest. I landed in Sitka, the old capital of Russian America. For the next 4 summers I returned to Alaska, repeatedly coming face to face with my own clichés, fears, and renewed dreams. In the summer of 2015, I received the National Geographic Young Explorer grant to take part in an archaeological expedition to uncover the location of an imperial Russian ship that wrecked in 1813. We lived for weeks off the grid on the rugged wild Pacific coast, self-sustained, and exposed to the elements –a dream come true.
In 2016, I officially moved to Alaska. I was lucky enough to spend an entire season commercial fishing and fell in love with the lifestyle and culture. I long lined in the gulf, trolled in the islands, and dip netted in Yakutat. Commercial fishing taught me how to work hard, how dishonorable men can be, and how to clean a variety of fish (halibut, lingcod, salmon, rockfish).
In 2017, I was fortunate to start as a full-time DP for Vice News tonight on HBO. For a year and a half I travelled across America, experiencing history and sharpening my camera skills. I often found myself in the heart of America: in towns with a closing coal plant, at a rodeo practice, and in a broken housing project. At times it was hard not to feel heavy under the suffering I was witnessing -seeing how unhealthy physically, mentally, and spiritually people are. However at the end of the day what gives me hope is how open to talk most people I came across were.
Presently, I’m a freelance filmmaker. With an increasingly fast and changing world, I am aim to slow down and appreciate what we may overlook or take for granted by using documentary storytelling. As a nation we have a lot to learn about our identity – personally, I value learning from cultures that see the world outside of “the western box”, and hope we can live more locally in ancient and new ways.