A very interesting article in this weeks magazine about photographer Irina Popova's Russian assignment  that captures the chaotic lifestyle of a Russian drug addict Lilya, her  boyfriend Pasha, and their 18 month old daughter Anisfa.   Her images raise  ethical questions , although aesthetical pleasing the content is disturbing.  How detached can (or should) a photographer be when as involved with the family as she became?  For Popova this created a paradox , some emotional detachment was necessary in order for her to  record the often disturbing scene in front of the lens, but she comments "I immerse in this atmosphere and it becomes a part of my life, Now they are just nice people. Family. My friends" An  exhibition followed that was generally well accepted with proposals made for  awards.  However Art  galleries  attract a different  audience from online voyeurs so when some of the images were published on the  internet there was a horrified response by bloggers who saw what they felt were  images amounting to child neglect and abuse. Should she have published these  images for the whole world to condemn and vilify the family and where does the photographers responsibility begin and end ? 

 Popova felt the images were misunderstood because of the accompanying text which suggested filth and mistreatment, not the tenderness she saw when living with  the family. It is interesting to consider how words can be used to change the context of how a photograph is read and interpreted but even without this factual information I think the images speak for themselves . Labelled "drug users"  the text accompanying the image below reveals nothing of the truth  as seen by Popova . 

 Photo-reportage , although often showing distressing imagery, is meant to be raw and honest, and I admire Popova's work with this dysfunctional, but not unloving,  family.


Image Copyright © Irina Popova                    


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