A photographer whose stark portrayal of a little girl’s life surrounded by her poverty-stricken parents life of drug and alcohol abuse has defended her decision not to report them to authorities.
Irina Popova’s photo-essay entitled ‘Another Family’ sparked national outrage when its portrayal of two St. Petersburg’s addicts seemingly oblivious to their two-year-old girl, Anfisa, was shared widely online.
Parents Lilya and Pasha were captured living a raucous life of drug-fueled partying – while their daughter was allowed to wander to the ledge of an open window, play with their cigarettes and come face-to-face with her strung-out father’s genitals while he slept-off his latest binge.
When the photographs were exhibited in St. Petersburg they were nominated for awards, but when the images made it online they almost sparked an official police investigation and a campaign was started to get Anfisa away from Lilya and Pasha and put into an orphanage.
Anger was mostly directed towards Popova, who was 21 when she took the photographs in 2008, for not intervening.
She was labeled an opportunist for taking advantage of the drug-addicts and for not alerting anyone in a position of authority.
‘I couldn’t imagine the reactions at all,’ Popova said about the backlash against her.
‘Maybe it’s weird, but my intention was to talk about the possibilities of love on the margins of society, and I hoped to bring more understanding, to build a bridge between people and to raise awareness that bringing up a child is not an easy task.’
Popova claimed that the negative reaction was startling to her, because she claims that what is portrayed in the photographs was not the whole truth of Anfisa’s life.
She claims that the startling images are just that and do not represent the ability of Pasha and Lilya to raise their daughter.
‘The truth is that life is complex and there are many situations too complicated to be judged,’ she said.
‘I thought it was important to make people think more about the level of truth which they usually don’t want to think about.’