The Psychedelic Beauty of Destroyed CDs

Like many teenagers growing up in the early- to mid-aughts, Russian photographer Rus Khasanov spent an obscene amount of money on CDs. He displayed his favorites on a shelf—Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, assorted Harry Potter soundtracks—and protected the rest inside black faux-leather binders, handling the discs with utmost care.

Photograph: Rus Khasanov

Young Khasanov could have never imagined the abuse he now inflicts on them. For his series Disctortion, Khasanov burns old CDs and DVDs with a lighter, dips them in bleach, and rips them apart with his hands. By destroying the discs and photographing them up close, he gives this dead-end technology new life—as psychedelic entertainment for the eyes. “It’s amazing to see all these vivid, multi-colored textures and know it’s just a photo of a physical object,” Khasanov says.

Photograph: Rus Khasanov

In 2006, Khasanov bought his first MP3 player. He stopped buying CDs three years later and now he doesn’t even own an external disk drive—much less a boombox—to play them on, preferring to stream all his music through Apple Music. But in October, while walking down the street in Ekaterinburg, he spotted a glint of sunlight reflecting off a 1990s Russian pop compilation lying on the road, causing it to shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow. Khasanov hurried home, unearthed his neglected collection, and photographed a scratched disc up close. The result “hypnotized me,” he says.

Photograph: Rus Khasanov

Three frenzied days of destruction followed. Sticking CDs and DVDs in the freezer produced frost and water droplets that magnified the iridescence beneath. Burning the metallic saucers formed bubbles and cracks on the polycarbonate surface—but the fumes were toxic, so he stopped. He illuminated the warped discs with LED panels and photographed them through a macro lens, capturing swirling tie-dye patterns that look like far-out screensavers. Though he blasted them with compressed air beforehand, he still had to spend hours dusting them in Photoshop. “Under a macro lens, the smallest specks look like pimples,” he says.

Afterwards, Khasanov dumped the broken albums and films in the trash. But they live on digitally—not only in sound, but also in sight.

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