Newsha Tavakolian, Justyna Mielnikiewicz, Dana Popa
Transgression I: Future of Man
The exhibition "Transgression I: Future of Man" gathered 3 series of 3 women photographers - Newsha Tavakolian (Iran), Justyna Mielnikiewicz (Poland/Georgia), Dana Popa (Romania).
Listen by Newsha Tavkolian focuses on women singers who are not allowed to perform solo or produce their own CD’s due to Islamic regulations in effect since the 1979 revolution. The photos are taken of the professional women singers performing in their mind in front of a large audience where in reality this was taking place in a small private studio in downtown Tehran. Subsequently, in my mind I made a dream cover CD for each of the women which was my own interpretation of the society I live in and experience, however, the CD cases will for now remain empty.
“For me a women’s voice represents a power that if you silence it, imbalances society, and makes everything deform. The project Listen echoes the voices of these silenced women. I let Iranian women singers perform through my camera while the world has never heard them.”
“Our Breasts Do Not Bite” by Justyna Mielnikiewicz
Profile of FEMEN- feminist activists group from Ukraine , who is most known for their topless protests. They call themselves feminists but underline that they promote a new kind of feminism - the sexy feminist - born of necessity as much as a committed sense of individualism and personal rights. Set up in 2008 by Anna Hustol, the group consists of around 20 topless activists and some 300 supporters. Most of the activists are in their early 20s, from the provinces, and either have university degrees or are still studying.
FEMEN’s actions focus on various human rights issues which have an impact on women’s rights, both locally and globally. Humor is an important element in their work, although not everybody appreciates it. They are often arrested for protesting, and are receiving jail sentences more often now. They understand they are taking a personal risk in a country where people have become disillusioned with public protests.
After week of photographing and taking to them I believe that those girls believe deeply in what they are doing and take personal responsibility for their actions. They are young, wild, educated and very ambitious .
Not Natasha by Dana Popa documents the experiences of sex trafficked women through photography and collected stories. It is an enquiry into a pervasive form of violence against women.
Sex trafficking has become the most profitable illegal business in both eastern and western Europe since the collapse of Soviet Union. The Republic of Moldova has turned into the main supplier of sex slaves for the whole continent with up to 10% of the female population sold into prostitution abroad.
I learned about it from the women who had survived sexual slavery and succeeded in returning to their home country. I went to see how they managed to live with the traumas they had experienced in a world that knows nothing about their suffering; how they lived under a huge shadow of fear that a mother or husband might find out and throw them out in the street. Their stories about being raped, abused and brutally beaten up live throughout this project.
Acquaintances, close friends, relatives or boyfriends sell a girl for $200, $500, even $2000, depending on how attractive or financially appealing the girl is. Once arrived in the country of destination, the girls are taken into brothels, their passports confiscated, and immediately put to work as prostitutes. They are supposed to be free after they pay back this debt, but they invariably get sold to another pimp. It’s a vicious circle that generates a lot of money. It keeps the business running and the girls in captivity. Escaping traffickers is not a simple case that one can just jump out of a window and is free, especially when some of the regular clients are police officers. Being illegal out there can be more dangerous than living in a brothel. Most of the time their visas get renewed even though they are kept in captivity.
I met seventeen women who had been sex trafficked. Some of them too fragile; some very strong, all trying to leave behind an unwanted past. I explained the reasons for my work in detail to every woman I photographed. I had to be both discreet and protective. These women were still dealing with strong emotional issues. In respect to their identity, all the names have been changed.
To address the wider impact this illegal lucrative trade has on the family, I went on and looked at the families and places of the women gone missing for years. No one knows anything of them; they vanished after accepting a job abroad and never returned. I worked on the idea of loss and absence, making out of my photographs documents of pain and longing for the disappeared, and proofs of these women’s existence. Within this body of work I reflected on psychological damage, stifled pain, external harm, ripped-off-identity women, emptiness, waiting, but also human dignity and hope.
‘Natasha’ is a nickname given to prostitutes with Eastern European looks. Sex trafficked girls hate it.