On 4 June 2015 Diana Tamane’s grandmother was accused of smuggling for trying to cross the Latvian-Russian border with two pots of flowers. She wanted to place them on her grandfather’s grave in Pytalovo, previously Abrene. In 1945 Abrene was annexed to the USSR, as was the rest of the Latvian territory. But in 1991, when Latvia gained its independence, Abrene remained part of the Russian Federation and, even today, a visa is required to enter it.
Once again, the complex stories of politics interfere with the wishes, needs and dreams of ordinary citizens.
If we think roughly what produces good art, the first thing that comes to mind is working with what is right in front of our eyes. Tamane takes the visual material his family has produced and reworks it through different formal and technical levels, formulating universal questions such as: what do you do once you turn the camera off? To what extent is skin really our ultimate border? What happens when you die?
The author starts from the sofa of her parents’ house, sitting with the women of her family, and then takes several trips, each one dedicated to a member of her family. Each border crossing is added to the others, forming an image capable of overturning any stereotype about the Baltics.
Tamane’s mother is commissioned by her daughter to film the road she will travel on her truck, from north to south of France. The photographer takes the footage and, starting from the negotiation with the mother of trivial issues such as the batteries that run down faster than they charge or the decision to include the audio of the phone calls in the video, she arrives, with humour, to reveal the symptoms of the rapid change in economic systems, the inability of people to adapt to it and the misunderstandings that this phenomenon produces.
Both parents of the author cross borders for work. Borders that physically do not exist, but which indelibly mark the differences between Eastern and Western Europe, condemning a large part of the European Union states to a constant and violent social and economic inequality.
Flower Smuggler was shortlisted at Arles – The Photobook Award 2020 and at Paris Photo Aperture Book Awards 2020