In one home from the Soviet era, a gaudy wide-eyed dog looks out from a dish towel. Coffee cups and the word ‘espresso’ cover the kitchen wall of another. A painting of a topless woman on a horse covers a cracked concrete wall at a third location.
Photographer Eugenia Maximova pursued “Of Time and Memory” to capture the distinct style of homes from the era before the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Compensating for hard times, the homes became more kitsch, she said.
“The scarcity of goods during communism has created a culture of showing off where people behave ostentatiously,” Maximova said.
Growing up, Maximova had several pen pals living in the Soviet Union. She was raised in Bulgaria, yet the Soviet Union felt like home.
“In fact there is a strong feeling of nostalgia for the USSR, especially among elder people,” she said. “I am nostalgic, too, for my childhood.”
She said homes in Bulgaria weren’t as bold and rich as the Soviet homes.
“It was more functional and simple,” Maximova said. “Well…boring.”
She previously worked on a project called “Kitchen Stories from the Balkans,” capturing the interior design in Balkan countries, including Bulgaria. She says “Of Time and Memory” was a natural follow-up series.
She contacted friends in the former Soviet republics of Moldova, Russia and Ukraine to help find homes that had such kitschy decor.
It was difficult to find places to photograph for her previous project in the Balkans, but those she asked to shoot in former Soviet republics welcomed her. She guessed it was because these countries are still riddled with hardships.
“People still depend very much upon each other to survive,” she said.
They also seemed to understand her project.
“I think it was pretty clear to almost everyone what I was after,” she said, meaning the memories and the disappearance of the “homescape” of this era.
She calls her work a blend of documentary and fiction.
“Every now and then, I would remove details from the scene if they wouldn’t fit my visual concept,” she said. “A few times, I even took objects from badly lit areas and put them where I thought they should be.”
- Lauren Russell, CNN
“Of Time and Memory” will be on exhibit at the Anzenberger Gallery in Vienna, Austria, starting September 12.