The New East

Somewhere I picked up a link to an article in the Calvert Journal from July this year, In focus: 29 women photographers picturing the new east written by Anastasiia Fedorova who states:

With cameras in hand, women are leading the way in defining the visual identity of the new east. Reclaiming their gaze from a conservative, male-dominated society, they are exploring gender roles and sexuality, myths and archetypes, the body, landscape and the urban environment. Here’s our pick of the female photographers at the head of the pack in picturing the new east.

Its an interesting selection, with much worth looking at. Quite a few of the photographers are now working mainly in the old west so some names may well be familiar to you.

I wondered about the Calvert Journal, which I’d not come across before and find it is published by the Calvert 22 Foundation, “a non-profit UK registered charity created in 2009 by Russian-born, London-based economist Nonna Materkova” which describes itself as providing: “A guide to the contemporary culture of the new east: the post-Soviet world, the Balkans and the former socialist states of central and eastern Europe” and as well as publishing the on-line Calvert journal established the Calvert 22 Gallery, (currently closed for refurbishment) dedicated to the contemporary art of Russia and Eastern Europe, in two floors of a converted warehouse on Calvert Avenue in Shoreditch, East London.

Arnold Circus, Bethnal Green (C) Peter Marshall, 1986

Calvert Avenue is a street I’ve often walked down, leading to Arnold Circus, at the centre of the Boundary Estate which has a good claim to be the oldest council housing in the world, built starting in 1890 by the Metropolitan Board of Works and completed by the then new London County Council. (That body’s successor, the Greater London Council, was the victim of one of Thatcher’s most malicious and senseless acts, from which London still suffers, with a ridiculous, divided and unsuitable system of government for a major city.)

It was a slum clearance scheme, replacing part of London’s most notorious slum, the ‘Old Nichol’. You can read a little more about it in my post Bethnal Green Blues, and much more about the area as a whole and its people in Cathy Ross’s ‘The Romance of Bethnal Green’ which that post is partly about.

The gallery and other recent developments in Calvert Avenue are a part of the gentrification of the area. One blogger described it in this way: “Just a few years ago it was semi derelict save for the launderette and newsagent, but now the street is a buzzy destination for the style-savvy supporters of the independent retailer revolution.” That semi-derelict street was of course the home to many who now find themselves priced out of the area as it gets taken over by oddly-bearded ‘hipsters’.

One of the events I missed photographing in July was a street party in neighbouring Camden; its event page on Facebook included the following:

The heart of Camden is being ripped out, pubs are being converted to luxury flats no one can afford, venues are under threat, the market is flogged off to be a casino (and yet more unaffordable flats) Rents are rising….fast.

Soon this community will be an unrecognisable, bland, yuppie infested wasteland with no room for normal (and not so normal) people.

Back in 2010 at Paris Photo I went to the launch of the book ‘Lab East’, featuring 30 young photographers from Central and Eastern Europe, writing about it on this site.

I don’t think any of the women from this book are included in the Calvert Journal feature. Partly this reflects the great number of interesting photographers emerging from Central and Eastern Europe, but also I think that ‘Lab East’ seems to be more at a grass roots level, while the more recent feature is more about those who have already made it in the west.

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