Book Review: Cruise
In her recently published book, Cruise, Latvian photographer Ieva Raudsepa uses the classic coming-of-age narrative as a metaphor for the political state of the Baltic region. The youth Raudsepa captures in intensely personal portraits and public displays of joy were born in the early 90’s—right after the fall of the Soviet Union. Taken between 2014 and 2016, the subjects’ stories parallel the societal transition the whole region is experiencing. As she confronts internal-external past-present dichotomies, Raudsepa calls it what it is...awkward. Whether that be by showing us an antiquated mobile device next to sliced bread, or a woman in a clumsy headstand under Brazilian pendant flags, we are swept into an uneasy and brilliant world of Raudsepa’s making that operates as a fierce political commentary.
The artist travels between Western European Stockholm and Eastern European Riga on an overnight ferry boat with both close friends and average partiers looking to escape parental guidance and ennui in what becomes a magnificent display of trashy opulence. Amidst karaoke, disco, and gambling, we get close to the subjects while they relish in the literal state of in-between that exists more ideologically back on land. The individuals are transitioning from teenagers into adults and the setting is in between two countries and two days. As the pictures tell us, and with the subjects’ fraught nationality in tow, there is no other word for the events that take place but escape. Raudsepa expertly weaves dream-like narrative text with portraits, images of the subjects’ belongings, the atmosphere inside the ferry, and the water itself. What we get is a three dimensional, expansive view of absurdity and intense honesty.
The shifts between fight scenes or flamboyant dance and the vast ocean highlight the vulgar fragility of the experience on-board, mirroring the message Raudsepa aims to tell of the Baltic region. Additionally, the design layout strategically assigns importance to each photo by varying size. The choices add perspective and sway our focus which contrasts the total state of release the subjects exhibit. The book is a triumphant grope at what it means to be young, alive, and unsure, as well as the liminal state between the East and West.
Ieva Raudsepa’s book, Cruise is available for purchase at mildabooks.com.