Category Archives: Documentary Photography

Ukraine..August 24

Today is August 24 and Ukraine celebrates 25th anniversary of Independence Day. On a personal note, my grandfather was born on this day 98 years ago, in 1918. Interestingly, The Ukrainian People’s Republic, a predecessor of modern Ukraine, proclaimed its independence on 25 January 1918 (simple maths means he was a 2months baby in the womb then). His grandparents were from Kherson and so was his mother and uncles. Though my granddad was born in Crimea. His mother, cousin and uncle were tragically killed, by Nazis in Crimea and by Soviets in Moscow. I will never tire of repeating my graddad’s words – Holocaust is a genocide against everyone (Холокост это геноцид против всех).

Having just spent 5 weeks in Ukraine with most wonderful people, I would like to thank all those on the pictures below and those whom I was too shy to photograph. There was no single time that my Moscow Russian dialect (accent) made anyone frown. Everyone was so patient with my misunderstandings (or often complete lack of understanding) of beautiful Ukrainian language. And so many people helped me and Olesya in our research of Debora Vogel. I will be back in Lviv in a couple of weeks and today I will go to the Armenian cemetery in Moscow where half of my Jewish family is buried. Those, who once lived in Mariupol, Simferopol, Dnepropetrovsk, Kyiv and ended up in Moscow. And I’m so grateful to be able to be here today with my dad.

Ukraine people_1

Betya Rechister and Boris Dorfman

Ukraine people_2

Alexandra Somish

Ukraine people_3

Jason Francisco

Ukraine people_4

Olga Pogribna-Kokh

Ukraine people_5

Jurko Kokh

Ukraine people_6

Pani Stefa

Ukraine people_7

Taras Beniakh

Ukraine people_8

Dana Pinczewska

Ukraine people_9

Danylo Pertsov

Ukraine people_10

Olga Kupchinskaya

Ukraine people_11

Jurko Prohasko

Ukraine people_12

in Burshtyn

Ukraine people_13

Olga Sukha and Olesya Zdorovetska

Ukraine people_14

Justik

Ukraine people_15

Edward Pastukh

Ukraine people_16

Alexandra Scherbakova

Ukraine people_17

Irina Garasinyak

Ukraine people_18

Alina Datsko

Ukraine people_1 thumbnail
Ukraine people_2 thumbnail
Ukraine people_3 thumbnail
Ukraine people_4 thumbnail
Ukraine people_5 thumbnail
Ukraine people_6 thumbnail
Ukraine people_7 thumbnail
Ukraine people_8 thumbnail
Ukraine people_9 thumbnail
Ukraine people_10 thumbnail
Ukraine people_11 thumbnail
Ukraine people_12 thumbnail
Ukraine people_13 thumbnail
Ukraine people_14 thumbnail
Ukraine people_15 thumbnail
Ukraine people_16 thumbnail
Ukraine people_17 thumbnail
Ukraine people_18 thumbnail

East End markets

Bishopsgate Institute asked me to join Diane Burstein, London guide and author of ‘London Then and Now’, on today’s Sunday morning stroll around the East End markets – Petticoat Lane, Spitalfields, Brick Lane, Cheshire Street, Columbia Road. Mind-blowing how the area and the markets have changed since I moved to London 12 years ago. But then again, many people keep reminding me how different it was decades ago. London is always on the move..

Impromptu from the Carpathians

Last month I reconnected with the places of my childhood holidays – Lviv and the Carpathian mountains in Western Ukraine. This area (former Galicia) was for centuries on the crossroads between Middle and Eastern Europe, and so it is small wonder that it has become a melting pot of people and cultures – Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, Armenian, Belorussian, Lithuanian, Romanian, German.

The outbound trip started with an early flight from Stansted to Rzeszow (the most south-eastern Ryanair destination town of Poland) followed by a 2hour bus journey to Przemyśl. There I found a cozy little cafe with the titles of dishes scribbled on the wall (in Polish only) and after a few minutes of hesitated multi-lingual interaction I was presented with some superb soup followed by a much needed delicious coffee. Next leg of the journey involved a mini-bus to the Polish-Ukranian border that I crossed by foot. All that was rather emotional for me – as a 14-year old I crossed the border of Ukraine and Slovakia on my first Russian passport (Soviet template actually). It was my first ever time travelling to *Europe* and the excitement was overwhelming. Now, 20 years later, I was travelling the opposite direction on my British passport reliving childhood memories in the light of two decades of wanderings. I boarded another mini-bus on the Ukrainian side and was told that in an hour and a half I would arrive in Lviv where I was to join my friend Olesya, the very one who prompted me to come here and now.

To follow were days of peeping into courtyards of old Lviv, walking the cobble streets, climbing onto the roofs opposite the former Golden Rose synagogue in Staroyevreyska street, wandering in the Lychakivskiy Cemetery reading mournful tributes inscribed in Ukrainian, Russian, German, Polish, Armenian, Latin. And of course there were poetry readings, music and late night discussions. Olesya bought a newly printed Ukrainian edition of Dvoyre Fogel poetry with illustrations and that was the start of our collaboration, our voyage to explore text, images and sounds of Fogel’s work and life.

Work sample 4-6290  Work sample 4-6310  Work sample 4-6336

Dvoyre Fogel was born in 1902 in Burshtyn (Galicia) in a non-observant, Polish-speaking home. During WWI the family fled to Vienna and later moved to Lviv. She traveled extensively in Europe and was part of the vibrant Polish modernist scene of the interwar period. It was in Lviv where Fogel wrote poems in Yiddish in the 1930s that reflected the radical and minimalistic outlook that all art aspired toward during this period in history. Her experiment in poetry was mostly about fusing poetry and art. She called this technique ‘white words’ and described it as an attempt to “create a new lyric poetry of the urban condition”. Together with her husband and son, Fogel was killed in the Lviv ghetto in 1942.

Around 1930 Dvoyre Fogel became acquainted with the Polish Jewish writer and artist Bruno Schulz who was as yet unpublished. The two developed a close relationship and carried on an intensive correspondence. It was Fogel who encouraged Schulz to develop the lyrical postscripts to his letters, passages that became the basis for his first publication “Cinnamon Shops” (1934), published in English as “Street of the Crocodiles.” Half a century later brothers Quay created a stop-motion animation based on this short novel. Ironically, Fogel is better known today for her connection with Schulz than for her own unique and innovative poetic vision. Very little of her work has been translated into Russian and Ukrainian, none into English.

The first letter (survived and translated into Russian by Dana Pinczewska) Fogel sent to Schulz starts like this:

21.V.1938 Бруно! Декорация этого письма – Сколе.

Bruno! The background scenery of this letter is Skole.

And here I am, on the early morning train from Lviv to the Carpathian mountains, not yet knowing of this letter, following my own story reconnecting with the places of my childhood. I doze off and when I open my eyes I am blinded by the sun breaking through the clouds, next what I see is the station building with ‘Skole’ on it exactly how I remember it when I was a kid.

 

The letter continues:

Твое последнее письмо вернуло мне давний образ осеннего ландо, на котором мы должны были вместе уехать в красочную страну. Запах путешествия обладает неотразимым очарованием и странным образом всегда ассоциируется с образом кого-то другого, спутника. Затем оказывается, что хорошо быть одному, совсем хорошо быть более чем одному — быть одиноким, оставленным, безнадежно отданным на милость оставленности и бездомности. Тогда «видится» хорошо.

Your last letter brought back the distant image of the autumnal landau which should have taken us to a beautiful far away land. The smell of the journey has an irresistible charm, and strangely, it makes me think of someone else, of a companion. But then it turns out that it is so good to be on my own, and what is even better is to be alone, deserted, left at the mercy of abandonment and homelessness. Then one can ‘see’ well.

collage

to be continued – watch this space!

Alexandra Palace commission

During June and July 2015 Alexandra Palace commissioned me to run a photography course ‘Give Your Future a Shot” for young people 16-25 as a part of their ‘War on the Home Front’ exhibition. This project, inspired by the use of Alexandra Palace as a refugee and internment camp during the First World War, was aimed at teaching participants how to use photography to give themselves a voice, uniting and intertwining this interesting period of history with the lives, experiences, and stories of young people today. Read more here.

© Asya Gefter / Alexandra Palace, 2015

© Asya Gefter / Alexandra Palace, 2015

Tales from the Ditch

Alan Gilbey, curator/guide, BAFTA Award-winning writer and East End guru:
‘Tales From The Ditch’ is an anthology of tales less told from London’s ‘little bit of rough’, as narrated by an eclectic selection of local authors, historians, storytellers and musicians, who were hidden in all the nooks and crannies of the basement of Shoreditch Town Hall. Each of these performances is a miniature, lasting five minutes, before bells are rung and you have to move on to find the next one. It’s a bit like speed dating, except you don’t have an awkward bit at the end where London history tries to get your phone number.

Tales from the Ditch-1
Tales from the Ditch-2

Dan Jones has painted East End scenes for four decades; writer, youth worker and human rights campaigner.

Tales from the Ditch-3
Tales from the Ditch-4

‘Oh Mr Wu..’ In an opium den Stefan Dickers sang of the scarcity of opium dens in the real Chinese Limehouse.

Tales from the Ditch-5
Tales from the Ditch-6

In a secret room Keith Jones tells the classified story of Tommy Flowers, the Poplar telephone engineer who played a major part in cracking the Enigma Code and ending WW2.

Tales from the Ditch-7
Tales from the Ditch-8
Tales from the Ditch-9

Chris Lilly and Tim Smith in the musical melodrama about ‘A Child Of The Jago.’

Tales from the Ditch-10
Tales from the Ditch-11

Tim Smith in the musical melodrama about ‘A Child Of The Jago.’

Tales from the Ditch-12
Tales from the Ditch-13

In a dark, damp cellar Debbie Scott tells the story of her great grandfather, who saved a great many men from drowning in the docks but was never honoured for his courage.

Tales from the Ditch-14
Tales from the Ditch-15

In a dark, damp cellar Debbie Scott tells the story of her great grandfather, who saved a great many men from drowning in the docks but was never honoured for his courage.

Tales from the Ditch-16
Tales from the Ditch-17

In the clinic of Anna Stokes you could receive sun lamp treatment and hear of Shoreditch Councils progressive health policies in the nineteen twenties. 'More power! More light!'

Tales from the Ditch-18
Tales from the Ditch-19
Tales from the Ditch-20
Tales from the Ditch-1 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-2 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-3 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-4 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-5 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-6 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-7 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-8 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-9 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-10 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-11 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-12 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-13 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-14 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-15 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-16 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-17 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-18 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-19 thumbnail
Tales from the Ditch-20 thumbnail

© Asya Gefter

There was a pub and a bit of a sing-song. An opium den clouded with myth. A musical melodrama about ‘A Child Of The Jago.’ A clinic where you could feel the health giving powers of electricity and sunlight.

Who created the Ditch? Perhaps Shoreditch Council just sheered the tops off a lot of Victorian houses and dumped an Edwardian Town Hall on top?  With its winding corridors and sudden dead ends, secret staircases and non-sequiter windows, it is the perfect geophysical venue for a myth defying night of Eastside stories.

All together…

‘It’s the rich wot get the pleasure and the poor wot get the rich.
All of us are lying in the gutter, but some of us are dreaming of The Ditch.’

Girls

‘You’ve got to grower a thicker skin’, many of us hear all too often. Horrible news pour from everywhere and so we empathise in small dozes, immunise ourselves and carry on.

Fortunately, these Nigerian girls do not live in the north-east where abductions take place. I am so grateful to have met them. Now when I feel powerless and angry at what is going on in the world, I look at their faces and remind myself that the news are about real people.


© Asya Gefter

May Day Clerkenwell

Rowan Arts have asked me to photograph the annual May Day gathering on Camberwell Green for their Clerkenwell History project. The Muscovite in me had mixed feelings on the day when a display of Soviet-era-like ceremony took place on Red Square, for the first time since 1991. But Britain is Britain, and here are the many beautiful faces of Londoners.


© Asya Gefter

East End Backpassages

Although Alan Gilbey currently doesn’t run regular walks, he does create very special events; strolls through the side streets of East London to secret venues where a dozen of local writers and performers await to tell you tales less told.

These ‘Speed History’ events happen several times a year. This year’s March event took place at the 19th century Bishopsgate Library and i was invited to follow Alan and the gang.


© Asya Gefter