250 years ago, about 30,000 Germans emigrated to the Russian czardom in hope of a better life. Russian-Germans are a topic present in public discourse since returning to their supposed homeland of Germany, where by now they belong to the largest immigrant groups. Since Germany began taking in late repatriates in 1950, nearly 4.5 million immigrants have returned to the home of their ancestors—a home that the majority only knew from stories. Upon arrival, they had to quickly realize that their identity was no longer purely German. Given their background and long history in the czardom as well as the Soviet Union, specific forms of an independent culture emerged after their return to Germany—neither totally Russian, nor totally German.
In the project “Privet Germania“ (Hello Germany) Ira Thiessen connects the topic of lifestyle within German-Russian culture.
She stages portraits and combining elements from theatre and atelier photography. In her partially absurd and detail-loving images, she plays with the Russian culture and simultaneously—with the aid of theatrical implementations within the personal living spaces of the protagonists—break classical photographic conventions. The combination of props and the ever-present cloth background, which seems to act like a foreign element or even an interference, emphasizes the individuality of those represented and isolates them from their privacy. The staging, which is made deliberately visible, creates a frame: The protagonists are framed by their environment, which appears as a cultural, as well as a formal frame.
The people presented within the context of this project come from North Rhein-Westphalia and Berlin, through which she is able to establish a connection between her place of origin and the place she lives.