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Rough beauty

Alluding to the hope of a paradise for the working class, Carmen Dobre’s photographs show builders at work in today’s Bucharest. Review by Michael Bird

March 2010 - From the Print Edition

2 Photos
The ghost of the Communist ideal of the perfect labourer haunt the photographs of Carmen Dobre, exhibited in the atelier of the Galeria Mora on a side street behind Piata Charles de Gaulle.
But these are not the Socialist realist poster-boys of the past - muscle-toned, hammer in fist, hard-hat in place and with a mining light illuminating the path to a utopia for the working man.
These days the builders live contract by contract, at home or abroad, fixing up steel wires and slapping down the concrete blocks to new apartment towers on the edge of the city.
Mostly they work for private developers and hope the financial crisis does not mean their new capitalist bosses go bust and refuse to pay their wages.
But the 31 year-old Bucharest photographer shows that while the idealisation of the working class may have vanished, the work itself remains the same before and after the revolution – building big blocks in Bucharest.
One of the most arresting images of life on-site is a group of diggers raising up their front loader arms, resembling the skeletons of prehistoric beasts poised for battle. This is a surreal twist to the men at work.
Dobre steers clear of the temptation to eroticise the workers – a move which could have turned farcical. Neither does she seek to place them in the staged pose of the Soviet period, which would have looked anachronistic.
Instead this is a gentle presentation of labourers, offering a sense of dignity to the delicate craft of heavy work.

Carmen Dobre
‘Rising High’
Galeria Mora
38 Strada Grigore Mora,
Until 12 March

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