Syomin, a native of Russia who now lives in Brooklyn, NY, traveled extensively in the former Soviet Union. His photos concern mainly rural life, depicting conditions and traditions that are quickly disappearing. Many villages in remote areas are rapidly losing population, as young people, pushed by both boredom and economic necessity, move to towns and cities.
Syomin's renown was limited to Russia until 1995, when Western photo editors discovered his work at a Moscow exhibition. Soon thereafter, his work was featured in the New York Times Magazine. He also received a prestigious W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund grant to continue documenting the decline of rural life.