Forget Brexit: these joyous photo stories remind us why it still feels good to be in the EU

29 June 2016

In the wake of the Brexit vote and the cloud of gloom that now hovers over the proudly European Calvert Journal office, we’re revisiting some of our most joyous photo stories that explore the lives, landscapes and cultures of people from EU countries in central and eastern Europe.

As Brexit shows, the idea of a single European family is a fragile one. But from the village discos of Lithuania to the shores of Hungary’s Lake Balaton we believe it’s a dream worth celebrating. Now more than ever.

Young Budapest by Andi Gáldi Vinkó

Living between London, New York and Budapest, Andi Gáldi Vinkó is interested in our culture’s internet addiction and its effect on how we perceive the world. She exposes the surreal and unexpected in the everyday and creates unconventional narratives of youth and contemporary femininity. For Gáldi Vinkó, the creative community of Budapest has always been a key source of inspiration, and celebrating young, all-inclusive cultural movements one of her main preoccupations. Gáldi Vinkó’s first book, Paradisco, a series of “sociological portraits” is due to be published by Pogo books this year.

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Hungarian beach resort by Michal Solarski

In his series Hungarian Sea, Polish photographer Michal Solarski revisits his childhood memories of summer vacations at Lake Balaton in Hungary. Under communism, Balaton was a major destination for working Hungarians as well as visitors from across the Soviet Union who were rewarded for their work in building socialism with a permit to travel across the border. As a child, Solarski made the trip to Balaton each summer with his family, driving 300 miles south in a tiny Fiat loaded with luggage. “As we couldn’t dream of travelling to Spain, Italy or Greece, Balaton was the closest and most achievable destination for ordinary Poles to see ‘what’s out there’.” In Hungarian Sea, Solarski retraces his childhood and captures the colourful world of today’s holidaymakers.

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Back to nature in Latvia by Iveta Vaivode

Iveta Vaivode traces her family roots and examines the nature of memory in the small, sparsely inhabited village of Pilcene in Latvia. Her series Somewhere on the Disappearing Path captures the lush natural surroundings of Latgale, the poorest region of Latvia, where strong Roman Catholic beliefs hold sway. Vaivode’s work explores the idea of “looking back” as a framing device and a narrative mode, and the imaginary past she dwells in serves as the best way to examine Latvian attitudes to community and nature.

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Rural Riga by Andrejs Strokins

Andrejs Strokins’s series People In The Dunes is an ode to Bolderāja and Daugavgrīva, formerly historically significant neighbourhoods of Riga which have today turned into neglected peripheries. The urban and the rural merge in Strokins’s soft perspective with people apparently stuck somewhere between the Soviet past and the ever-changing present, drifting in the fog. We don’t find out anything about the lives of the people in the images; Strokins keeps his distance, capturing a feeling of remoteness and the unique beauty of Riga’s edgelands.

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Lithuanian village discos by Andrew Miksys

Photographer Andrew Miksys has been capturing provincial Lithuanian discos for the last ten years. At the weekends he gets in his car and drives out of the country’s capital, Vilnius, towards darkness, in search of a gleaming disco ball somewhere. At the time he started his journeys, Miksys, who was born in America, could only speak broken Lithuanian and was unable to hide the fact that he was an outsider. Yet the raw appeal and complex history of the places he discovered made him take a chance to document them each time.

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Coming of age in Latvia by Anastasia Shpilko

Photographer Anastasia Shpilko captures teenagers in rural Latvia in settings powerfully reminiscent of adolescence — in the still, lazy days of late summer in a provincial town. Shpilko shot Before the Fall, her photo series, in Pelči, a village in western Latvia, and Kuldīga, its neighbouring town. The sunlit portraits she produced are snapshots of youth and the fleeting feeling of living in the present.

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Folk choir in Hungary by Viola Fátyol

In her work, Viola Fátyol is drawn to exploring the hidden dynamics in various communities. She started with her own family, depicting her closest relatives restaging childhood memories and photographs. In her most recent project Fátyol has worked with a folk choir from a small town on the eastern border of Hungary, investigating the concept of belonging and national identity — and her own emotional involvement with her subjects.

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