Bertien van Manen has released her latest book, Let’s sit down before we go, showcasing photographs taken across the former Soviet Union from 1991 to 2009. Using a distinctively lo-fi style, the analogue photos portray the lives of the local inhabitants within their own context, their homes, work or leisure. Van Manen shows their interior world, frozen in the characteristic cheap on-camera flash, perfectly captured in the garish colours of clothes and carpets hopelessly out of style, whatever the decade. The endearing idiosyncrasies of style are perhaps emphasized by the fact that, even though the photos span 18 years, there consistency offers no indication of what was taken when.
The images offer a sensitive, affectionate portrayal of the people that the photographer has encountered on her travels, running through snow, talking over drinks, sunbathing in the grass. It’s this intimate yet outsider portrayal that ultimately reassures us why we travel: to experience the life of the other.
Reviewed by Katherine Oktober Matthews.