This picture is shot in Giulesti Sarbi, a Roma-dominated mixed suburb on the periphery of the city. There are an estimated 150,000 unregistered Roma in the city who are at the bottom of the social ladder. The girl in the picture is named Shakira. Apart from the need of playgrounds, she is in need of a social security number, (as many Romani people) she has no legal rights and cannot go to school. So for her, the theme Possible Playgrounds takes on yet another meaning.
How was the ‘Possible Playgrounds’ project conceived? What was the process in turning it from an idea into a full series of work?
It started when I was invited to curate a photo exhibition as part of the Bucharest bid for becoming European Cultural Capital in 2021. I invited four other Nordic photographers to look at the city from an outsiders’ perspective, through the theme “Bucharest Microtopias”.
For my own work I wanted to focus on the average life and local surroundings. One of the first things that hit me was the contrast between the newly built playgrounds of the mid to upper-class areas with their bright colored plastic, rubber floors and almost womb-like protective design – in contrast to the low income neighborhoods with poorly kept, brutalist-style playgrounds.
Some of the images approach this idea literally, while others are much more conceptual. How were the ideas formed? Tell us about a couple of the images in particular.
The process of working with the kids has three stages: Firstly, we talk about their needs, wishes, fears, interests etc. through, drawings, short texts and essays. The next phase is to photographically map out the aesthetic and spatial qualities of the neighborhood, finding places that hold certain meanings. The third phase is where the content of the first two phases is merged together in the final pictures. Some will be carefully planned and others more intuitive and raw.
The first one (top left below) is a literal one, shot in an area just across from the community center – an ideal spot for a playground and outdoor activities, but left in ruins.
Others like this one (bottom right below) are a more abstract visualization of the theme – minimalistic interpretations, letting the body play and become one with the environment.
Another (top right below) is based on the idea of placing the computer game outside to animate and create possible playgrounds. Another (bottom left below) is an example of a semi-planned scenario where the kids are softening the adults of the neighborhood by helping them clean the street.