Dana Popa | Not Natasha
24 JULY – 18 SEPTEMBER 2009
Photofusion, in partnership with Autograph ABP, are pleased to present not Natasha by award-winning photographer Dana Popa. This major project began in 2006 when Popa first travelled to the Republic of Moldova to document, through photography and collected stories, the experiences of sex-trafficked women and their families. ‘Natasha’ is the nickname given to prostitutes with Eastern European looks. Sex trafficked girls hate it.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of the main trafficking source countries for women and children. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 women have been sold into prostitution abroad – up to 10% of the female population. In Moldova, Popa worked with the International Organisation for Migration Shelters and Winlock International where she was given access to photograph and document the experiences of 17 women who had been trafficked.
In 2007 Autograph ABP commissioned Popa to return to Moldova where she began to collect the stories of the disappeared and photograph the families, the homes and in some cases the children who have been left behind. Finally, Popa returned to the UK where she documented the spaces where trafficked women are forced into prostitution in the brothels of Soho, London.
‘Behind the fancy facades of the cosmopolitan capitals of Europe, hundreds of rooms become exile spaces for myriads of bodies objectified for male fantasy. While most of them are squalid and cold, many others appear familiar and warm. Mirrors, red lights, posters, the list of services on the bedside – all these little attempts at humanising these rooms, at imbuing them with a kind of homeliness, speak for the girls’ need to survive.’ Natasha Christia, photography writer and curator.
Human trafficking is currently estimated to have a market value of over 32 billion US dollars. Forced prostitution of women and children is the most widespread form of human trafficking today. Kevin Bales, the world’s leading expert on contemporary global slavery, recognises that poverty, deprivation, the desire for a better life and the need to escape conflict and oppression are the vital elements that bring people into contact with traffickers. Deception and false promises are important strategies employed by traffickers. Gaining the confidence of the targeted individuals and their families is an essential part of the trafficking process.
“Popa’s photographs are essentially an enquiry into an acute and pervasive form of violence against women. The loss and absence portrayed in Popa’s photographs resonate with the violence associated with forms of cultural erasure, in which names are changed, histories are rewritten and deep-rooted societal relationships are severed. Popa’s photographs are a tragic reminder of just how vulnerable and powerless women are globally, and the absence displayed exposes the futility of universal declarations. Popa’s photographs act as metaphorical markers on the social conditions across cultures that have served to lock women into forms of masculine servitude.” Mark Sealy, Director, Autograph ABP
Dana Popa is a photo-artist based in London who graduated from the London College of Communication. Popa specialises in contemporary social issues, with a particular emphasis on human rights. In 2007, not Natasha received the Jury Prize in the Days Japan International Photojournalism Awards and the Jerwood Photography Award. Her work has been exhibited widely and includes the Noorderlicht Photofestival in Leeuwarden, at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Tokyo and in the exhibition Moving Walls 14 at the Open Society Institute in New York.
This exhibition was commissioned by Autograph ABP and is accompanied by an artist’s book which will be launched during the exhibition and is also available for purchase from www.autograph-abp.co.uk. Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally to educate the public in photography with a particular emphasis on cultural identity and human rights.