Left for another

mbfitzmahan. Left for another Woman.  Tallinn, Estonia. 2008

This photo was taken inside a large abandoned movie theater in Old Town, Tallinn, Estonia.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, the movie theaters closed down. The Communist Party used movies as an effective tool to educate, entertain, and to inculcate Party values in its youth. Soviet movies were the best entertainment in town.

The communist occupiers were thrown out of Estonia in 1991. Democracy and capitalism were adopted, and the aging old movie houses were replaced by ungainly concrete movie complexes. Going to the movies in Tallinn today is like stepping into an AMC movie complex in Walnut Creek, California. Popcorn, Coke, M & Ms, jelly beans, and Brad Pitt.

In 2008, when I was teaching photography in Tallinn, Saskia, one of my students, cajoled her father to allow me to take photos of the abandoned movie theater he owned in Old Town. Saskia’s father was one of the deeply wealthy nouveau riche in Tallinn.

How Saskia’s father, a Russian-Estonian, moved up from being a common worker of the communist Soviet Union, to a multimillionaire is part of a murky tale of acquisition of wealth in the early years of independence.

The Russians of Estonia, unlike Putin’s oligarch friends, did not walk away with political power in Estonia, the smallest of the Soviet republics. But, great wealth during privatization of property was grabbed by a few.

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Exhuming stories

mbfitzmahan. Lovers and Coffee. 2013. Issaquah, WA

I was inspired by Viola Davis’ acceptance speech at the Oscars on Monday, February 26, 2017. Viola Davis won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, in the movie, Fences

“People ask me all the time — what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies! Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost.”

Photography is the art where I like to ‘exhume those stories.’ It is a responsibility that I take very seriously.

Continue reading “Exhuming stories”