PEOPLE IN THE DUNES
“My address isn’t a city. My address isn’t a town. My address isn’t a street. My address is the ‘Soviet Union.” These are the words of a dressmaker from Leningrad (reported by the New York Times in 2006) who, during the Second World War moved to Bolderaja, one of two neighborhoods of Riga in which Andrejs Strokins is now working on the PEOPLE IN THE DUNES project. The other neighborhood explored by the photographer is Daugavgrīva Island; both run along the left-hand side of the Daugava River, a bridge connecting them.The dressmaker’s remark expresses a way of thinking still deeply rooted in Latvia, a country characterized by a large Russian-speaking population. Andrejs still remembers when as a young boy his nursery school teacher told him that his real grandfather was Lenin, creating a bit of a turmoil in his family. This along with other, similar experiences from his early years in Bolderaja – in a the time when the country was still a part of the Soviet Union – drew the interest of the photographer towards these parts of the city, suspended as they are between the natural beauty of the dunes (of which the ancient fishing villages were a part) and the stark severity of the area’s typical Soviet architecture and nearby military zone.Andrejs develops his study along these confines and he recognizes in this situation a paradigm of contemporary problems: a dichotomy between the recent past and a Latvian identity still struggling to reassert itself. In this cultural landscape, figures and atmospheres assume a light and evocative character, which, like a thin film, envelopes the problem-laden reality of the city, leaving one to sense a desperate Pasoliniesque vitality.