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Westernising the East


“In 10 or 15 years this will be like a normal place” - well known local journalist, 2015.


Westernising the East is a personal, metaphorical statement about the globalisation and westernisation of 'less developed' nations, shot over 5 years in Lithuania. 

It is the first volume of a series which will explore this issue in geopolitically significant countries along the EU/Russia border. 

The close proximity to Russia and the perceived threat of one super power's political and cultural influence on its neighbours, is an interesting aspect to this work, which makes it all the more relevant, due to the commonplace preconceptions and disinformation on both sides of this border. 

Lithuania is no longer officially classed as 'less developed', but the harsh reality for many people is that it still is. This reclassification closes doors to funding and opportunities that limit some areas of growth, while others benefit from the new 'more developed' status and the image this conveys. Behind the hype, sharp price increases since the Euro arrived have not been matched across wages, meaning the cost of living is now much higher, especially for the poorest.

Ideologies, generational differences and social and economic inequalities in Lithuania are highly polarised, and are most often explained by the historical chasm of difference between Soviet and European Unions. But what does the future hold? 

Rapid changes over the 25 years since independence have dramatically changed the country, undoubtedly in many ways for the better. But such rapid change is not necessarily the best way to reach sustainable prosperity. And in 10 more years when the oldest generations are gone, the country will have lost yet more irreplaceable heritage, but at what cost? Changes will continue for better or worse, as political will and a fear of Russia, bring deeper corporate, financial and political European integration. But the unlimited raw potential of a 'developing' nation in some way fades with the mass import of any standardised culture, currency and identity.

I am looking for signifiers of the future, documenting what remains of the past, and questioning the gains and losses, while observing the population caught in the balance. 

I hope that these images can provoke people on both sides of all borders, to question what they take for granted as good or bad. And to rethink what they are willing to sacrifice for the appearance or functionality of security and freedom. Because fear, especially manipulated for political gain, is not a rational emotion in which to base important decisions, and I believe there are always more options available than those usually on offer. 

 

2018 © Joe Wood