“A Hundred Summers, A Hundred Winters”: Dutch Photographer Bertien Van Manen Travels The Far East To Capture ‘Dark Times’ Of Post-Soviet Russia

Bertien van Manen is a Dutch photographer who makes primarily environmental portraiture and works in the photobook format. She uses an inexpensive snapshot camera to take photos of people she meets as she feels that these cameras allow her subjects to consider “me as a tourist or friend, who liked to take pictures.” She has photographed extensively in China and the former Soviet Union. Van Manen’s work has been exhibited internationally and won awards.

She has travelled through the Eastern Block sixteen times, has lived there and photographed the things she encountered: post-Soviet daily life. In this, Bertien van Manen did not remain a distanced photo-reporter. In Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov, Odessa, Tomsk, Sibiria, in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldavia or Georgia she become involved with the way of life there, with the people. Very direct, but never cynical, the colour pictures by the Dutch photographer tell stories of friendship and love, happiness, pain, aging, loneliness and death. Communal apartments, furniture and wallpaper, cutlery, clothes, bouquets, odds and ends, portable radios and televisions are at the same time scenery and mirror. The photographs of the interiors and their residents speak of poverty and the attempt at a dignified life.

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