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Posts by: Bianca-Olivia Nita

The Secret Christian Churches of Shanghai, in Photos


A woman puts the Bibles away at the end of Sunday service.


The entrance to an underground church in Puxi, Shanghai.


A man holds his Bible at an underground church.

There are currently more than 68 million Christians in China, and experts say that in the future, China might become the biggest Christian country. Most of these believers reject the state sanctioned churches because they believe these institutions serve the Party’s interests and ideology. Instead, they gather in improvised churches in their homes or office buildings. Lisbon-based photographer Gonçalo Fonseca (@goncalo.fonseca on Instagram) spent two months in Shanghai exploring this subculture. Underground Churches is a documentation of some of these hidden churches and the people who attend them.

The Lost Pride of Romanian Mining Towns, in Photos

In 2017, Belgian photographer Kevin Faingnaert wanted to find a project close to home, but different enough to be an exploration. He initially set to find stories in the farming communities in the Romanian Carpathian mountains, but while researching, he came across the small towns in the Jiu Valley and was hooked. He loved the people and their traditions, and the stories he discovered there reminded him of his grandfather’s tales from the period when the Belgian coal mining industry headed towards its end. Faingaert’s series Jiu Valley is the result of a month spent in the region and is a wonderful and dramatic portrayal of a community stuck in time, once mines have been downsized or completely closed and nothing came to replace them.

These mining towns were built during the communist decades. They used to be important and the jobs there were well paid, but mining lost its importance after the regime fell in 1989. The focus of the series lies in the loneliness of these places but mostly on the workers who shaped them. The miner is the central character in the history of the valley, and Faingaert wanted to document what they have built and what they are about to lose when the mines close down completely.

A Country Doctor and Her Calling

For the last three decades Dr. Floarea Ciupitu has been a family doctor in Gangiova, a village in south-west Romania. Bucharest based photographer Ioana Moldovan followed her through her daily life, and her photo series A Country Doctor and Her Calling is both an inspiring example of a doctor’s devotion to her profession and a means to raise awareness of the challenges doctors face when working in rural communities in Romania.

Portraits Reveal the Many Faces of Bureaucracy

Ram Prabodh Yadav (b. 1970) is sub-inspector (deputy inspector) of police in Maner Block, Patna district, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: 10,000 rupees (131 euro).

Thomas Harris (b. 1949) is chief of police of the city of Rockdale (some 6,000 inhabitants), Milam County, Texas. Monthly salary: $4,250 (3,162 euro).

The word ’bureaucracy’ has a negative connotation. It suggests unnecessary paperwork, inefficiency and unfriendliness. This negative perception is created in time, by people’s repeated experiences, and the degree of resentment towards this system of government differs per country. For his series Bureaucratics, Dutch photographer Jan Banning traveled to eight countries on five continents, and visited hundreds of offices, documenting the culture, symbols and rituals of state civil administrations and its servants.

Civil servants are to an extent the face of the government. Banning’s images are full of details, and the stories describing the civil servant’s task and his salary are illustrative for the relationship between the state, the civil servant’s rank and power.

Banning’s visits were unannounced, and the images reflect what a local citizen would see when coming inside. Each photo is shot from the same height, the height of a standing person. But the photos put these offices in a different perspective than what a visitor actually sees. Most likely, the people that come in are more interested in solving the issue that brought them there, than in paying attention to these places. In a way, these photos make these offices and the people in them truly visible for the first time.

The series Bureaucratics has been published in a book that is available together with Jan Banning’s new book “Red Utopia: Communism 100 years after the Russian Revolution” which was released on the 14th of October.

Remembering the Horrific Exile of Thousands of People

Fatima Uzhakhova, Ingush, was a granddaughter of biggest landlord in the Caucasus. Her family was split: some were repressed as “public enemies” of the Soviets, andothers joined the Bolsheviks. In 1944, the family was exiled to Kazakhstan with thousands of others. In exile, Fatima’s mother was sentenced to five years of jail for breaking a rule: she crossed the frontier of her exile zone. Fatima had to survive on her own since the age of 9.

Chechen elders pose by the ancestry towers, which were ruined by the Soviets, rebuilt, then ruined again by the Russian army, and rebuilt again.

73 years ago today, the lives of nearly half a milion Chechen and Ingush people changed forever when Stalin ordered their deportation to remote parts of the Soviet Union. More than a third never returned, and the lives of the ones who did were already altered irreversibly. Russian photographer Dmitri Beliakov has been working in the North Caucasus since 1994 and came to learn about this dark chapter of history. As the witnesses of the exile were one by one disappearing, Beliakov felt time was slipping away. His project The Ordeal is the last chance to preserve their memory.

The Only Spaces for Intimacy in Romanian Jails

When Romania became part of the European Union in 2007, the country had adjustments to make. Among them was that every jail in the country had to have an ‘intimate room,’ a place for inmates to spend private time with their partners. Over the course of several years, Cosmin Bumbut photographed these newly-created cells in all of the country’s 40 penitentiaries. His photo series, Intimate Room, is a complete documentation of these artificially created spaces for intimacy.

Greetings from Uzbekistan, the Country that Grows Cotton in the Desert

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London-based photographer Marco Barbieri has always been interested in countries where politics and religion play a central role in people’s lives. He decided to travel to Uzbekistan after seeing images from the disappearing Aral Sea, but his initial plan became much more than he thought it would. His photo series Water in the Desert places water in the country’s broader context, and reveals how a dictatorship can turn logic upside down and make the absurd an acceptable part of daily life.

The Dreams of Homeless People in San Francisco

Mike was the first person to be in this project. He came from Ohio, but he had to leave because he used to smoke weed and was arrested. He is now rebuilding his life, has a place to stay, and started work, thanks to an organisation from San Francisco.

Honey run away from home because of her violent husband. She slept in her car, but it broke down. The police took it, so she had to sleep in the park. She learned how to play the ukulele by herself. She is called Honey because of her sweet voice. She had her first performance at the hotel where I photographed her.

Few people’s lives turn out exactly as planned. Horia Manolache’s series The Prince and the Pauper portrays homeless people from San Francisco, as they are now and as the people they once dreamed they would become.

When the Priest Comes to Visit in the North of Transilvania

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In traditional communities in the North of Transilvania, accompanying the local priest on his visits gives you a privileged kind of access into people’s lives. That’s what Romanian photographer Remus Tiplea discovered during the two years he documented the relationships between two priests and the families in their parish.

Capturing the Buzz of Life in Brasilia’s Central Station

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When he moved to Brasilia in 2014, photographer Gustavo Minas couldn’t help but feel alienated. The city felt prone to separate; he didn’t like its open spaces and unwalkable roads, and the way people seemed to always be in their cars made him feel disconnected. The only place where he could feel the buzz of life was Rodoviaria do Plano Piloto – the Central Station of the city. His ongoing series Bus Stop is the result of his need to observe and get closer to others.

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