During Estonia’s centenary year, photographer
Birgit Püve travelled around the country capturing the impact that changes in
the population are already having on people’s everyday lives.
Key forecasts indicate a continued and
significant decline in population numbers in Estonia in the coming decades.
Unlike recessions, which hit people hard and fast, changes in the population
often go unnoticed in the short term and seem disconnected from our day-to-day
Although outside of larger towns and cities
life often comes with greater challenges, the people portrayed in the
exhibition retain a positive outlook on and love for their country. The
photographs raise the question of how we will endure for the next 100 years and
who will be at ours sides as we do so.
Birgit Püve is a freelance photographer whose
works have been showcased in personal exhibitions in Estonia, Poland, Russia,
Germany and the United Kingdom and in collective exhibitions in Europe and the
United States. Her photographs have appeared in such prestigious publications
as The Guardian, The Washington Post and The New York Times and she has won
international awards in such competitions as The Taylor Wessing Photographic
Portrait Prize (London), the LensCulture Exposure Awards (Paris) and the PDN
Photo Annual (New York). She has also won categories in the Estonian
Association of Press Photographers competition in three separate years – twice
for portraits and most recently for sports photography.
In her work to date she has primarily focussed
on memory and identity. For example, she looked at the identity of Estonians in
the series ‘Estonian documents’, whereas she examined the relationship between those
housed at the Vao Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers and the unknown new
environment around them in the series ‘Varjupaik/Sanctuary’. Alongside her
exhibition projects, she collaborates with publications and publishing houses
in Estonia and abroad and also works part-time in the archives at the Arvo Pärt
‘#kuidasmekestame’ can be viewed in the Vabamu gallery from 11 May until 28 September.
The exhibition was made possible thanks to the cooperation of the Open Estonia Foundation, the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, Mainor AS, TalTech, the Estonian Service Industry Association, the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations and a raft of volunteers. Community discussions and ideas sessions covering the same issues of migration and population as #kuidasmekestame took place in late 2018 and in 2019 around Estonia. The proposals they generated can be found online (in Estonian) in here.