We first spoke to Kajet – a journal that challenges the simplistic and often negative representations of eastern Europe in the (western) mainstream press – in 2018 when it first launched. 20 months later, and Kajet has released its third issue exploring what it means to struggle; from resisting unjust political structures to struggling against an increasingly individualised society, Kajet’s latest issue is filled with essays, illustrations and photographs that tackle the various meanings the term can take on.
“In the context of this year’s commemoration of three decades since the 1989 regime fell, our third issue is a deconstruction of the complicated notion of struggle, a concept that shapes the eastern European condition of marginality,” Kajet tells It’s Nice That. “But this issue is not only about tension, uncertainty, and conflict, it is also about hope, solidarity, and optimism.”
One such instance is Nikita Dembinski’s photography series Age is a Wrinkle – from which the cover image is taken – that celebrates and uplifts Romania’s elderly communities. “The relationship may not be obvious at first glance, but it makes you think,” Kajet says. “And that’s the kind of reaction we wanted to create. We included it because it draws on the unexpected, on an unconventional representation of old age that challenges our normative associations with this almost taboo subject”. Age is a Wrinkle is a reflection on what it means to be elderly in a society that glorifies youth.
Nikita, who was born and raised in Bucharest, first became interested in the politics of age last year. “I was working on an academic group project at the time that involved us making a photography book or magazine,” Nikita says. “I decided that mine would document age, time, and the passing of it. I always had a soft spot for elderly people, so I started photographing them.” It is this initial dedication to retired citizens that grew to become Age is a Wrinkle.
For the latest issue of Kajet, Nikita approached a friend who helped put him in contact with his subjects. “My friend is a performer and actor who used to work on a play alongside the seniors I photographed. They are the residents of the nursing home. I asked my friend if it would be possible to approach them for this project and I was lucky enough to have received a very kind and positive answer,” the photographer says. The result is a series of intimate portraits of the Bucharest’s elderly community. Glamour, humour, vulnerability and fashion all come together in the series of photographs in order to resist and challenge our preconceptions of elderly people.
For Nikita, it was important to depict his subjects as multifaceted, three-dimensional characters. “I didn’t want to intervene too much,” Nikita says. “I tried as hard as I could to make them feel comfortable around the camera so that it would be a pleasant experience for both of us. I got to know them little by little, one by one. Some were understandably nervous and some were very open and transparent. They were kind enough to accept this ‘experiment’, in which I tried to portray the different versions of themselves.”