Åsa Sjöström is an award-winning Swedish photographer who has documented life in Moldova since 2005. In beautiful pictures she depicts the brutal reality in one of Europe’s poorest countries. The focus of the pictures is often women and children. The photo exhibition Silent Land is now showing at Fotografiska in Stockholm.
Åsa Sjöström is one of Sweden’s most celebrated documentary and news photographers. She possesses the ability to get close to people and produce images that look beyond the obvious, making the viewer pause and take notice.
“Thousands of children grow up without parents in a country where corruption and poverty force young people to move and seek jobs abroad, while those who remain are dreaming of finding a way out of the country. Young people think life is a monumental expectation. They believe there is nothing they can do. Life is only acceptable,” says Sjöström.
“All over, you will find children—seeming orphans—who actually have parents. While the kids’ mom and dad are alive and well, they have been forced to leave the country to find work abroad, ironically, in order to support their families,” she writes, commenting og her photos.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, when the country was a prosperous farming and wine community, nearly a quarter of the population has moved abroad in search of a better life.
While the media interest in Moldova is absent, Sjöström realized how little she knew about the country, and that she was not the only one. She decided to visit.
“When I arrived in Moldova for the first time, in 2005, I approached the people and the country with an idea about misery and social problems. Those were the stories I had heard about this small, unknown country sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine, the stories that had colored my views. Three month-long trips later I had a collection of photographs from prisons, trafficking and violence. But something was missing. I wanted to experience life around the corner, things one takes for granted and perhaps don’t pay attention to in one’s everyday life,” she says.
In 2006, Sjöström won first prize in World Press Photo Awards with her series about a ballet school in Moldova. Sjöström is also the first Swedish woman who has been awarded a prize in the world’s largest photo competition, POYi, and she is also a multiple Swedish “Photograph of the Year” winner. The Silent Land exhibition in Stockholm presents Sjöström’s photos from the winning series about ballet school and a selection of other pictures taken in Moldova.
Silent Land is a monumental journey of silent portraits through a forgotten corner of Europe.
The exhibition is on display through 4 February 2018.
is a documentary photographer based in Malmö and educated at Nordens fotoskola. Her work is focused on international understanding, human rights and the situation for women and children around the world. In 2016, Åsa Sjöström’s work was displayed in the Mariatorget underground station in Stockholm, as part of Stockholm Public Transport’s annual art event.
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A Moldova Portrait at Fotografiska in Stockholm, written by Tor Kjolberg
All photos by Åsa Sjöström