You are here :
Picture Anfisa's family (1)
- Irina Popova
- Picture name
- Anfisa's family (1)
Current picture :
1 / 11
Born in Tver in 1986, Irina Popova grew up amid the upheavals of post-Soviet Russia. She began working as a journalist and photographer at age sixteen, and won her first prize a year later. After studying for a time under press photographer Sergey Maximishin in St Petersburg, she found herself in the Caucasus in 2008 when war broke out between Russia and Georgia, and publication of her images in the magazines Russian Reporter and Ogoniok confirmed her reputation as a committed photojournalist. In conflict zones and on the fringes of society she combines a sharp eye with a deep humanity, in the tradition of Americans like Eugene Smith, Nan Goldin and Jessica Dimmock.
"I met Lilya in the street in the summer of 2008. I took some portraits, then she invited me to her house. She was living with her boyfriend Pasha, who's an addict too, and their two-year-old daughter Anfisa, in a dropout commune in the centre of St Petersburg. Their life was just never ending party, however Lilya and Pasha weren't doing such a bad job with Anfisa. Sometimes things got out of hand, though, like the time Anfisa climbed up onto the window ledge and her mother caught her just in time.
The little girl was well-behaved; she didn't cry much, didn't ask for much. She'd adapted to her environment. She was a little backward in her speech, but that didn't worry her parents."
This reportage caused real controversy when it was shown in St Petersburg in 2008. Most visitors thought Anfisa should be taken away from her parents and placed to an orphanage; and they thought the photographer had either set up pornographic scenes in the child's presence or had been an accomplice to things she should have reported to the authorities. So the police were called in and Irina Popova was ordered to give the family's address — which she categorically refused to do, on the grounds of protecting her sources. The investigation was dropped.
"The photographer must not pass judgment. Her duty is to tell a story. If someone asked me my opinion on this little girl's future, I would answer with no hesitation that however dysfunctional her family might be, Russia's orphanages are much worse."