Meet the Moldovan photographer documenting Gen Z’s love affair with 90s post-Soviet subcultures

Photographer Alexander Cozirschii wants to create a cutting-edge vision of Moldova’s youth. Based in Chișinău, he mixes references from films, fashion and global pop culture to create a fresh visual language that places his peers firmly in the heart of the cultural map.

Growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s, Cozirschii was just as influenced by MTV as he was by wandering through the city’s streets and housing estates. Today, reckoning with these adolescent memories and broader post-Soviet history is crucial to his work. In his previous series, LEGACY, he confronted stereotypes of Eastern European youth. His latest project, meanwhile, explores post-Soviet subcultures, and how they’ve become a source of imminent nostalgia.

“In this series of portraits, I tried to visually convey today’s post-Soviet youth. [But] they pretty much look like the “neformaly” youth movement that came out of [Moldova in] the late 90s and early 2000s,” Cozirschii explains. The photographer may have drawn inspiration from his own memories — but he also holds a mirror up to the Moldovan Gen Z, with their thick eyeliner, scruffy hair, skateboards, and oversized and crumpled rock shirts.

“When I was a kid, there were skinheads, punks, goths, rappers, emo, ravers, gopniks. I was a part of the rap subculture. I still remember walking down the street listening to Wu Tang Clan, when suddenly a couple of skinheads grabbed me, pressed me against the wall and threatened me with a knife. Fortunately, I was saved by older guys from my neighbourhood,” the photographer recalls.

Many of these subcultures were new to the Moldova of Cozirschii’s youth, absorbed through the consumption of cable TV, local VHS tapes, and Western magazines. Their fresh appeal and tribal nature used to polarise young people, something which the photographer says is missing today.

“The present youth may look the same but they are very different mentally. There is no ‘war’ between subcultures, between the different musical preferences and the ideology that carries. A lot of subcultures have merged into something larger and more hybrid,” the photographer explains.

Through his faintly nostalgic portrayal of Moldovan youth, Cozirschii aims to create an authentic space for his peers in the global culture. “Today, [wider] pop culture has adopted these [subculture] influences. Modelling agencies are a good example: they used to choose people by very strict standards, and now we see boys and girls with multiple piercings, pink green hair color, braces, a clumsy haircut… Youth subculture today is an integral part of fashion.”

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