Estonian photographer Annika Haas has made a fascinating photo series, titled "Plane Watchers," about the residents of aSoviet era shanty town near Tallinn’s airport and is hoping to put on an exhibition in New York with some help from a crowdfunding site.
In the series, shot with Lubitel, the Russian-made medium format twin-lens reflex camera, Haas has systematically mapped the lives of pensioners set in their ways and community traditions, living in a world somewhat divorced from contemporary Estonian life. Haas says she is hoping to "save the memory of these simple and common people who continued their trust in a non-existing power."
The Soodevahe area was colonized during the Soviet period, when the workers of the former military factory Dvigatel were given plots to grow vegetables there. Soon a village of dachas flourished, but after the collapse of USSR, the land changed owners and now belongs to the airport. The village became illegal and increasingly derelict and recurring fires led to grumblings that the area stood out like a sore thumb to anyone arriving in the country by plane.
Since 2010, Haas has been documenting the people, mostly retired Russian-speaking workers, and stories in Soodevahe, formerly located near the Lennart Meri Airport of the Estonian capital. Soodevahe was bulldozed in November 2011 and set to be completely eliminated this year.
The series was featured on the global photography magazine and photographers’ association Lens Culture and is among the most viewed projects on the site.
Haas also received an invitation from the photo gallery United Photo Industries in New York, organizer of the popular Brooklyn photo festival Photoville, to take the exhbition to the US. She has set up a project on the crowdfunding site Hooandja and has almost met her goal with a week still to go.
The area has attracted the interest of other artists and documentarists. Documentary film maker Aljona Surzhikova produced the film “Suur-Sõjamäe” about the residents’ plight and contemporary artist Timo Toots temporarily refashioned the area with his projects Linnujaam and Soodevahe during the urban installations festival LIFT11 in 2011.