During the 1970s and 1980s, Mikhailov’s photographs featured satirical criticism of the Soviet regime. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, he has documented the poverty and social collapse that has enveloped his homeland. The series Case History 1997-8 includes almost 500 photographs, and focuses on the homeless of Kharkov. 

Mikhailov pays his subjects to pose for him, often exposing their ravaged bodies with their tattoos, scars, bulging bellies and sagging breasts. Mikhailov has defended himself against charges of voyeurism, arguing that it is better to document and draw attention to the suffering and degradation of his subjects than to pretend it doesn’t exist. The harsh realism of these works can be seen as an ironic retort to the airbrushed deceptions of the Soviet-approved ‘Socialist Realism’.