For one month only, Dana Popa‘s series ‘After The New Man’ is being exhibited in Foto8 Gallery on Honduras Street in London. Her series of work goes round the foyer of the gallery; a space with white walls and laminate flooring. Her photographs started at the window and worked their way around the room. Each image was numbered and this number’s caption was on an A4 handout that was given to us by the intern there. Many of he photographs on the smaller walls were in triptychs: a landscape that was smaller, in-between two portraits. I felt that, with the context being that the portraits are of the people are those who have no memory of communism but are victims of the mechanisms; yet they are the future. I felt that because the landscapes of artefacts of the past were smaller, that the people photographed are the important future. Dana Popa spoke of how she wanted to pair strength of women against the old communist mechanisms and this is clear in the editing and ordering.
Dana Popa grew up in Communist Romania. In the gallery there are old photographs displayed of her past during the traumatic communist regime and being poisoned by the socio-economic divide, identity and propaganda. In an interview, which can be listening to HERE on the Foto8 website she says:
‘We were as kids, we were, raised up as to become young communists and every morning we’d sing the anthem’
‘All this propaganda was all fake and all lies, not even children believed it anymore. At the end of the day we were given that identity’
‘I wanted to focus on a generation who had no memories of communism’
Much of the old generation: factories that are no longer used were places next to portraits whom are the future of Romania. The landscapes appear very grey and bleak which highlight just how it hasn’t changed. To the young generation, this is normal; yet, they are only looking at artefacts of what their homeland was really about: ‘equality’ before the fall in 1989. Popa talks about the grey blocks of flats:
Image number 6: “now I can se better the blocks of flats we live in, like cages one on top of another. You can hear your neighbours on all sides. Now I can see how poor I am. Me, the owner of a one bedroom flat of 31 sq metres where I brought up my son, with one tiny room opening into another…”
The portraits are split between people who want to ‘leave behind an unwanted past’ or want to stay because ‘people make the change’ despite young people earning 120 euros a month. The portraits are of people in their own identity: however, during the Communist regime, women with long hair would be arrested and have it cut to a suitable length. The portraits are of children and adults doing their own thing, making their own identity in the new world, despite the country ‘being in a bad place’. There is a portrait of a girl in her bed in Italy. Her caption read:
The problem is that we grow up so that we can leave the country, and to me, this is an awful feeling: to want to uproot yourself as soon as you come of age. I was 19 and eager to ‘run away’. For my generation the choice was easy: leave! And so I did. Now I am so far away of what was once ‘home’ that I never see myself going back’ – Madalina, 21 years old, live in Italy.
Popa talks about the youngest person she photographed: a 14 year old girl; at the time she said she would never leave the Homeland; however, she grew up in the shadow of Communism and now studies in London. However, there is a young couple, embracing sat down with a plain wall behind and a picture that can only look a little like Jesus. The boy is now unemployed but said “I don’t care about what you call ‘recent past’. I look ahead.”