One of the peculiarities of the post-recession years has been the sudden interest in post-socialist culture within the mainstream culture. What is so peculiar about the rise of interest in this region is not that anyone doubted the rich talent and diverse contributions coming out of these countries. Instead, it is that Western society has look to co-opt post-socialist aesthetics to reconcile itself with its own societal breakdown. The story of Gosha Rubchinskiy becoming the darling of Western fashion, shit Western photographers fetishizing club kids in Lithuania, and the recuperation of Brutalism is a fictional story of a “New East” to obscure Western cultural appropriation. However, this all eventually gets tired.
The reality is there is no “New East” but a diverse array of disjointed, uneven, and fractious space that gets called Eastern Europe; but even to say that enters a broader political conversation. Beyond all the issues of cultural appropriation, there are broader political economy matters. If photographers do not tell “Eastern European” stories riddled with the same cultural tropes expected of a Western audience, then they will struggle to find their work attracting much Western attention and the financial benefit of that. As such, the consequences are that a large segment of photographers have their work ignored and neglected. Balls to that.
We have selected some photographers from the post-socialist region that look to break from the sameness that has slowly proliferated over the past number of years. Each make their own unique contribution to the conversation and look to shape a highly individualized reality through their work. More importantly, none of them have more than a thousand followers on Instagram – but we want to change that. We believe they merit your interest and if you feel the same, then please make sure to support them.
Valeriya Didkivska (Kyiv, Ukraine)
The emergence of the so-called “New East” aesthetic, there is a growing number of photographers looking to mimic the same style that mixes physical beauty within the backdrop of brutalism. It is getting tired. Valeriya Didkivska offers an infusion of colour that reimagines this brutalist setting. Based in Kyiv, she offers a critical re-thinking of what is the wonder of brutalism and breaks the monotony that has been building for some while. Through her work, she imagines a reality that can neither be defined nor co-opted. It is hers.
Kristina Vislianska (Lviv, Ukraine)
For any emerging photographer, please take note of Kristina Vislianska’s persistence. Kristina constantly tagged us in her posts. Initially, I was rather unsure of her work. She kept tagging us nonetheless, and I couldn’t help to grow more and more fond of her work. Based in Lviv, her work is more conceptual than the others listed here. She blends collages, staged, and street photography. Throughout, she looks to make sense of Ukraine and the vague intersection of its past and its future.
Ina-Alice Danila (Bucharest, Romania)
There is a certain realism to Ina-Alice Danila’s work that enters into an almost unpolitical space. Her work gently reminds us there is a reality beyond all our bull shit. The Bucharest based photographer’s work captures those unremarkable afterthoughts, lost thoughts, and seconds that last years that all accumulate to what adds up to be reality. Her work depicts Bucharest as a city where socialist ghost wonder through neoliberal fantasies to create something that is tangible but seemingly impossible to grasp.
Aslan Baitursyn (Astana, Kazakhstan)
It is kinda strange that Aslan Baitursyn has a Hello Kity profile photo because his work captures the essence of so much of Kazakhstan’s trauma. Through his Instagram page, he has featured work from the oil town of Zhanaozen where the Kazakh government murdered an undetermined number of workers protesting working conditions. Haunting at all times and beautiful in others, he captures the emptiness that haunts the city. His photos pose a question to all onlookers of what has Kazakhstan lost with these souls so brutally murdered? We can only speculate.
Allyosha Kutidze (Tbilisi, Georgia)
Tbilisi is a city that seemingly has been built for photography with its timeless beauty and charismatic population. With Tbilisi’s growing international profile, to photography Tbilisi has become increasingly the same performance over and over. Then you see Allyosha’s work. He reimagines a Tbilisi that is both surreal and alien. While other photographers look to locate Tbilisi’s Soviet heritage or other boring matters, he locates a Tbilisi lost in technology, filters, and post-truth where it is no longer a city but the sum total of a million individuals conjugating in one space. After seeing one too many photos of the Dry Bridge, his work begins to almost make sense.