This image was shot at dawn at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, birthplace of the Solidarity movement. It is the opening image my new exhibition “New Dawn for Europe” at Anise Gallery, London from 7th to 22nd October.
All the photographs in the exhibition were shot at dawn in the nine former “Iron Curtain” countries of Eastern Europe: Poland, East Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, where demonstrations took place between 1987-1990 to demand political change and an end to communism and Soviet oppression. The demonstrations took many forms and were received in differing ways. In the Opera Square in Timisoara, Romania, many protesters where shot, whilst at the Song Festival Grounds in Estonia, the authorities watched on as many thousands of Estonians sang their folk songs and waved the national flags (both activities were banned.)
The images show the Lenin Shipyard, Gdansk, Poland; Saint Nicholas Church, Leipzig, East Germany; Freedom Monument, Riga, Latvia; Vingis Park Song Ground, Vilnius, Lithuania; Song Festival Grounds, Tallinn, Estonia; Alexander Nevsky Square, Sofia, Bulgaria; Opera Square, Timisoara, Romania; Freedom Square, Budapest, Hungary; and Wenceslas Square, Prague, Czechoslovakia. Whilst the events differed at every site, the one thread that combines them is the desire for democracy.
Each country subsequently became a member of the EU, and each location in each country has its own history and its own cultural and political references. Over the last three years (with Covid sandwiched between), since the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, I visited these sites, shooting them all at dawn – the beginning of a new day and the beginning of a political era. The work is a meditation on the use of public spaces and an investigation of memory, democracy and place. These sites have even more relevance now in 2022 when many of these countries live in fear of a return to autocracy after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The strong personal impetus to begin this project came after the UK’s Brexit vote, and my reflections on the contrasting emotions that inspired the 1987-89 demonstrators to seek a better future that would ultimately be within the EU. It is also a reflection on how the desire for democracy and democratic values manifests itself powerfully in public spaces. The full series can be seen here.
Anise Gallery is a contemporary art gallery with a strong focus towards the architectural aesthetic, presenting an exciting programme of exhibitions, events and talks that relate to architecture, technology and the built environment. All EPUK members are of course welcome to the opening on the 6th October 6 - 9pm
'New Dawn for Europe' runs from 7 - 22 October 2022 12 - 5pm Friday - Sunday and by appointment Anise Gallery at The Old Chapel 27-33 Malham Road London SE23 1AH 0208 858 3226
Paul Raftery is a photographer of the built environment with an international reputation who has been shooting around the world for more than 30 years. Following his last exhibition at Anise Gallery, Berlin Voids, Paul was invited to show the work at the Stiftung Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial).
His films (made with Dan Lowe) have been shown in numerous galleries and festivals, including the New York Architecture Film Festival and the city’s Gagosian Gallery.
See more work by Paul Raftery