Forgotten man in Cuba and Russia

Photochats Press Release April 2008, London
Forgotten man in the urban societies of Cuba and Russia

In response to the advance of fascism, totalitarianism and bureaucracy, Alexander Rodchenko wrote in his diary in 1937:

“Man is very alone now, everyone has completely forgotten him”.

Seventy years on and little has changed, in Russia or elsewhere – be it a ‘Democratic’ West or a ‘Socialist’ Cuba. Man is alone in a society shaped by capitalist or socialist, consumerist or ideological propaganda.

This project is a reflection on people’s lives in the urban societies of Cuba and Russia. The photographer is interested in the reality of every day life, of young and old alike. Gefter avoids stepping into the area of photography that shows the happiness of ‘Cubanos’, the prosperity of ‘New Russians’ or the disappointment that came with the change of the regime. Likewise, ideological ties such as the romantic image of the Revolution fall outside the framework of this project. The images from Russia suggest a certain timelessness – it is difficult to say when they were taken – under the Soviets, Yeltsin or Putin.

There are some curious findings in the photographer’s search of city inhabitants. Thus, chess being a Russian influence and baseball ‘imported’ from the US are both extremely popular in contemporary Cuba. The photographer’s view of the Pioneers (a socialist equivalent of the boy scouts) in Cuba is a reflection on her memory of being one of them for just a few months back in 1990 in Russia.

The contrasts and similarities seen in this collection of photographs are intriguing and may evoke feelings of both familiarity and foreignness to the ‘western’ viewer.

PS A common question to ask and to be asked – ‘where are you from?’ It is often when photographing in the ‘country of origin’ that one realises their outside/inside perspective and dilemma. ‘Back’, ‘forward’, ‘us’, ‘them’ all mixed together in a jigsaw puzzle.