“Privet Germania” by Ira Thiessen
Ira Thiessen researches a complex identity of Russian Germans who returned back to their historical motherland in the series of staged portraits “Privet Germania” (Hello, Germany).
250 years ago, about 30,000 Germans emigrated to the Russian czardom in hope of a better life. Russian-Germans are a topic present in public discourse since returning to their supposed homeland of Germany, where by now they belong to the largest immigrant groups.
Since Germany began taking in late repatriates in 1950, nearly 4.5 million immigrants have returned to the home of their ancestors—a home that the majority only knew from stories. Upon arrival, they had to quickly realize that their identity was no longer purely German. Given their background and long history in the czardom as well as the Soviet Union, specific forms of an independent culture emerged after their return to Germany—neither totally Russian, nor totally German.
In the project “Privet Germania“ (Hello Germany) I am concerned with the topic of lifestyle within German-Russian culture and its hybrid identity. I am interested in the extent to which so-called hybrid cultural identities can be recognized extrinsically and interpreted in images, such as customs, clothing, language, behavior and mindsets. I am also concerned with questions regarding how cultures will continue to develop in the future. In the photography project “Privet Germania“ I decided to record the present and to make the phenomenon of this so-called hybrid identity visible. I stage surreal portraits by using an analog camera and combining elements from painting, theatre and atelier photography. In my partially absurd and detail-loving images, I play with the Russian culture and simultaneously—with the aid of theatrical implementations within the personal living spaces of the protagonists—break classical photographic conventions. The combination of props and the ever-present cloth background, which seems to act like a foreign element or even an interference, emphasizes the individuality of those represented and isolates them from their privacy.
The staging, which is made deliberately visible, creates a frame: The protagonists are framed by their environment, which appears as a cultural, as well as a formal frame. Thus, the compositions recall those of paintings. Through this manner of staging, I leave it to the viewer to decide how much truth to project into the photographs. The people represented within the context of this project come from North Rhein-Westphalia and Berlin, through which I am able to establish a connection between my place of origin and the place I live.
Ira was born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 1983 and grew up in Espelkamp in the north-east of North Rhein-Westphalia, Germany. She completed her degree in artistic photography in 2015 with the photography project „Privet Germania“ under the tutelage of Ludwig Rauch at the Ostkreuzschule in Berlin.She is pursuing further photography projects in the Post-Soviet states. She currently lives in Berlin.
Ira’s website: www.irathiessen.com
Posted by Ksenia Les