Irina Popova’s work has been met with a vast amount on controversy throughout its publication. It has had a barrage of hateful remarks about the lifestyles of the subjects, with this extending to Irina herself, accusing her of indifference towards the parents and choosing not to intervene in the child’s life. When discussing Irina’s work its hard to not go over some of the same territory that has already been widely discussed throughout the internet, but understandably there will be people that this project is new for them.
Hit the Jump to see the rest of Irina Popova’s Series.
For those of you that haven't seen Irina Popova’s series, Another Family. At first glance it seems to be extremely controversial, It draws you in and begs you to question the nature of the situation. Irina herself is not shy about explaining circumstances of how she came to obtain these photographs, but there seems to be dualities about the subject nature.
Irina’s project started when undertaking a project about Feelings set by a photography workshop she was taking. Irina first met Lila (the mother) and asked to take her photo, with reluctance from Pasha, (the father) Lila invited Irina to their home. Their home seemed to be the centre of a party for a few days where Anfisa (the child) crawled around. Despite the party lifestyle Anfisa was still pampered to, and offered affection whilst her normal parental duties were attended to. Irina continued to return to their home to photograph for the next two weeks.
Its clear not only from viewing these images and from the barrage of negativity Irina received from the internet that there are some alarming images here, but underneath it all you still get the sense of love for this child. This work was published as a book and a review of this you can find on amazon reads:
“The pictures are sometimes shocking but between the images you see the love that these parents have for their child. The lifestyle of the parents may not be what we "normal" people consider good for a child, you can not deny that there is love for the child"
Irina received a nomination for an award after their first exhibit but was met with such aversion after it was so widely publicised on the internet. Just by searching Irina’s name in google you will find contradicting articles about the work, some celebrating the work for its photographic documentary ability and others criticising the subject nature. It begs the question as to who the viewer is intended to be, undoubtably it is a beautiful documentary of a subject matter so closed off from the rest of society, but you cant help but wonder further.
There is no doubt that Irina’s work feels reminiscent of the project, Losing Ground by Magnum photographer, Donovan Wylie. A project you often hear about in regards to its controversial nature. Wylie documents a family of travellers with the project centring around their children and the situation they find themselves growing up in. Depicting parents using drugs whilst children happily play close.
One of the best and most interesting aspects of photography is its subjective nature and how this alone brings more questions than just simply the subject nature. Tom Hunter also photographed travellers, but contradictory to Wylie he choose to photograph them in a way that elevated their status. Hunter humanises his subjects by referencing aspects of Pre-Raphaelite compositions. Ultimately his reference was regarding their doctrines about the status of art and who it depicted.
All of this is not so relevant, its merely a way of referencing two ways of seeing. Irina’s work seems controversial but it is possibly just one side of a coin. Before demonising her subjects you need to understand that this is a subjective view point. We see glimpses of a life that offers a huge amount of love alongside some aspects where we fear for a child’s safety.
There has been thousands of documentary photographs depicting grief and hardship from all over the world, all of which could have the same negative reaction, asking why the photographer didn't intervene. Irina wasn't there in an official capacity, she was merely telling someones story.
It is a photographic project that is easy to judge but ultimately a glimpse into someones life. As Irina published her photographs online and left it for other people to decide their viewpoint, it will be up to you to decide your feelings about the project.