Friday, 7 December 2007
MOLDOVA / Chisinau / Maria's husband-to-be abandoned her because the baby was not his... photo by Dana Popa
They keep returning to my mind: the photo above and Dana Popa's other pictures of young Moldovan women who are survivors of sex trafficking.
This young Romanian photographer is one of the winners of the 2007 Jerwood Photography Awards and her pictures, along with those of the other winners, can be seen until Sunday at the lovely Jerwood Space in Southwark, which I hadn't visited before.
I must admit that, since these awards are for young photographers just out of college, I was rather expecting to see more experimental, conceptual work. Whether the fusion of social concern with the highest artistic technique is a reflection of the judges' preferences or of the prevalent mood among entrants, I don't know. But here were beautiful and moving photographs of poverty, exploitation and environmental degradation, as well as general human quirkiness.
I really liked the whole exhibition, a sample and short account of which can be seen here, but came back and back to the Not Natasha series. Natasha is a scathing nickname for prostitutes in the part of Europe these young women come from. Dana Popa's photos defy the stereotypes and cast a clear and gentle look at each individual, now back in her home environment, some rebuilding their lives with partners and families, others rejected and shamed by their experience of sexual slavery. These are not horrible environments; just poor and old-fashioned. Dappled sunlight through trees, warm shadows and the softness of old lace and fading cretonne counterpoint the shocking brutality of their stories.
Some of her strongest photos accompany a story by Dana Popa on the international women's website, Imagining Ourselves, while the complete portfolio is displayed on line by the Anzenberger Agency.