Photographer Bertien van Manen's series "Let’s Sit Down Before We Go" refers to an old Soviet custom: right before one leaves for a long journey, they must sit quietly for a few moments and reflect on where they’re coming from and where they’re going. See the intimate photos from the 1990s below.
Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen started out in fashion but later decided on a more documentary approach, hence travelling through Eastern Europe with a small 35mm camera in tow.
When we say traveling, we don’t mean going to museums or beaches, or eating at fine dining restaurants or partying. Instead, van Manen immersed herself in the Soviet culture of Russia, Moldavia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Tatarstan and Georgia.
She stayed for long periods with the people she met on her travels—living with them, learning their language, befriending them, and observing their daily activities. The nomadic photographer ended up with 15,000 negatives of intimate moments shared with her by her subjects, a result of her personal relationship with them.
With the help of English photographer Stephen Gill, she selected 60 of her best photos, now in exhibition at Foam. Van Manen’s humanistic approach to shooting yielded these slightly odd but very real slices of life in the Soviet Union, showing that life outside the big cities tend to stand still through time.