Estonian Documents: Portrait of A Nation
Estonian photographer Birgit Püve traces the essence of the post-Soviet country in the faces of her fellow citizens.
Human face is the best document of time. As a native Estonian myself, I explore Estonian faces with an aim to portray the little Eastern European nation as a whole. Estonia’s existence hasn’t always been that evident. Only 20 years have passed since the Soviet Army left the country and Estonians have searched for their new personal and national identity.
During the ongoing visual study of my compatriots, I have photographed different people that I have met on the streets, in supermarkets, sushi bars, museums, monasteries, villages etc against a grey backdrop. The grey backdrop is as important as the people on the images. It is a symbol, a metaphor of the past.
Using the backdrop, I also chose to turn upside down the idea of a traditional ethnological portrait by separating the models from their everyday environments. Without cozy elements of a home or a home town, with no supporting details or usual stronghold, the models can enter a new psychological space, where private feelings can be silently made public.
In that silence, personal stories emerge. Thus, the photograph becomes an ode to individual existence in the context of nationality.
Through the portraits of known and unknown Estonians, I aim to treasure the psychological state of one post-Soviet country in the 21st Century.
The project is in progress.