In 1989, a record number of 71,000 Soviet Jews were granted exodus from the USSR after a century of radical changes, fuelled by a wave of anti-semitism. Between 1988 and 2010 over 1.6 million Jews left the territory of the former Soviet Union, most of them settling in Israel but others heading for Germany, Canada, Australia, and the United States.
Irina Rozovsky was seven years old when her family fled from Russia to America in 1988. “It’s ironic in retrospect,” she says. “The USSR was a closed up place where Jews were discriminated against; in the end we were the ones that got to leave and seek out a better life. It was like winning the lottery.”
Rozovsky, now 37, lives in Georgia, US, with her husband and two-year-old daughter. “In my work I’m always circling back to the beginning of things, which for me is leaving one place and settling in another, adapting to a new life,” she says. “My photographs are not autobiographical, but I guess that history and the search for the familiar echoes in how I see. Not being able to see the place that you remember, I think that drives my photography.”
Between 1930 and 1964, Liberty Theater was the name of a non-whites only cinema owned by Rosalind Fox Solomon’s family in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “There was an irony in the name. I chose Liberty Theater as the title of this book because of its multiple meanings,” she says. “In a broader context, the title relates to performance and pretence in the theatre of life.”
The photographs Liberty Theater collects together were taken through the 1970s to 90s in the southern United States, and have never before been published as a group. From Georgia to South California, through Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, Solomon captured the complexity of race, class, and gender divisions.
“I had no idea that photography would change my life,” says Solomon, who began photographing when she was 48, after graduating from college, getting married and raising two children. In 1977 she moved to Washington DC, where her husband worked for the General Services Administration, and visited New York City to study privately with Lisette Model.
“I hope the project can make the audience feel like they walking through a cloud of mist.” Zhao Qian, a Chinese photographer living in San Francisco, has recently been announced as a runner-up in this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards. His series, Offcut, the edge, is inspired in part by the feeling of jetlag, which he describes as creating a fog on his surroundings.