Chloe Borkett – East of Nowhere

Chloe Borkett

East of Nowhere

The frozen conflict zone and ex-Soviet enclave of Trans-Dniester, is a narrow slither of land located along the Eastern Moldovan border – a disputed sovereignty, which for 20 years has been de facto governed but also unrecognized by the UN. This came about in the Soviet Union’s dying days as alarm grew in the Dniester region over growing Moldovan nationalism and the possible reunification of Moldova with Romania. A 1989 law, which made Moldovan an official language added to the tension, and Trans-Dniester proclaimed its secession in September 1990.

So what does it mean to grow up in a country that doesn’t exist? So called independence, was seen by many as a triumph that should have secured a better future, but the PMR government has only made time stand still in this little known region, where its people are subjected to living a poverty stricken, isolated and somewhat entrapped existence. Preserving a deeply Soviet hyper-reality, Lenin continues to stand proud on every town square.

Political allegiance to Russia is safely guarded seemingly at a cost to its people as the day-to-day reality of maintaining such cultural and political heritage becomes the complete opposite of preservation. Compared to the west we are spoiled by choice, so what western teenager could imagine living in a landscape absent of entertainment, modern facilities or endless consumer possibilities? Where parental presence is limited, and travel or escape is economically and politically restricted.

To date there has only been a modest response made of the territory. Carrying out an on-going exploration pieces together fragments of history and politics to create a contemporary portrait of the new generation to become a fresh contribution to an under-documented region. Interior spaces and landscapes echo psychological states and social concerns, whilst a non-linear narrative leaves individual stories open to interpretation.


Chloe Borkett was born in southeast London and has been based in a number of cities around the UK and overseas. After graduating from LCC, she embarked on a 5-year career in the music industry, specializing in online marketing. In early 2003, Chloe retrained as a teacher and moved to Thailand for a period of 3 years.

During her time in Thailand, Chloe had the opportunity to work on various charitable projects. It was here where Chloe began to take photography seriously, cementing her decision to return to the UK to study concerned photography where she is soon to graduate with a degree in documentary photography from the renowned course at Newport School of Art.

With the reoccurring theme of isolation present within all Chloe’s work, subject interests have centered on social issues concerning minority groups and the young, as well as the exploration of underground or alternative cultures.

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Chloe Borkett

32 Responses to “Chloe Borkett – East of Nowhere”

  • Another from the British “Nero Group” of photographers

  • Oh boy. Somebody is going to go absolutely apeshit over this essay!

  • There are some nice images here, but….

    “So what does it mean to grow up in a country that doesn’t exist? ”

    After seeing this essay, I still do not know.

  • mws’s kircher parrot is at it again

  • Another artist statement looking for an essay.

  • It’s funny, just today after nearly 10 days without reading, only writing and picture editing, I started reading Laslo Krasznahorkai’s magisterial “The Mleancholy of Resistance” (later made into Bellar Tarr’s film “Werckmeister Harmonies”….this essay is a sibling, albeit in color…..

    I love the color palette and the lyrical use of red and green…it’s funny, because whenever i’m in Moscow (a city of grays and browns) the red berries and the small, bursts of green (especially in apartments and on wallpaper) are always startling…as if against the huge beast of dust and winter, nature is straining to explode…and those very small moments, in those small moments of color, lay the hope and maybe character of the people i know and love…

    less an essay of document, per se, this is more akin to a poem…about about small wings of color and small peaks of strength that peak out through all those cracks of history and weight…why, for me, is that important…because within those moment lay not history (with a capital H) but people, their lives, the sound of their voice, the laughter over vodka and pickled tomatoes and cucumbers, the smiled drinks, the scraping on the wood floors…sound really….

    the same lyricism that Lise Sarfati made in Acta Est (still one of my favorite books on e.europe) and than confounded many then, long before this ‘style’ became de rigeur for many…it is in the stillness that Sarfati understood and learned so much, which continues to this say….my wife’s father told me in January, one cold, frozen night on the bus in Moscow…it isn’t how someone talks to you or what people say to you in front that reveals, it is what you notice when they’re not looking…when they’re staring out the window avoiding you…Sarfati got that right, profoundly….and I sense that here…not misery but a love of this place and the people and young lives she photogrpahed..


    congratulations and thank you for sharing this lyrical piece….


  • and yes, in this instance, i didn’t like the artist statement …it is didactic and nearly contradicts the visual and emotional power of the photogrpahs….then again, i come here, mostly, for the pictures :)))

  • “…about about small wings of color and small peaks of strength that peak out through all those cracks of history and weight…why, for me, is that important…because within those moment lay not history (with a capital H) but people, their lives, the sound of their voice, the laughter over vodka and pickled tomatoes and cucumbers, the smiled drinks, the scraping on the wood floors…sound really….”

    JIM: I don’t know if the artist statement will find an essay, but the essay certainly found the artist statement.

    I think people should just send in the essay and we can let Bob make up the words.

  • PETE

    you are joking about Bob writing for everyone , but those of us who see submissions here and are now in the process of putting together Burn 02 know beyond a shadow of a doubt that photographers, most photographers, just cannot write…and i guess most writers cannot photograph either…Bob is the exception…i am sure if this was a writer driven blog, and they had to have an accompanying picture, those pictures would probably be about as bad as a lot of the artists statements here…so we really might come up with another system here to help alleviate the often painful marriage of words and pictures…we can correct spelling and grammar and try to edit a bit here, but we have to mostly leave the photographer text alone…i mean we cannot start all over with the photographer…that alone , as you know, would be a full time job for two people…it would literally mean sitting down and interviewing the photographer in most cases to try to dig out what they are trying to say……just not practical….it is the biggest complaint with essays..text does not match pictures…so we need to find a way…my suggestion is going to be that photographers get serious outside help with their text…we just do not have the manpower to do it….text is my biggest nemesis when editing Burn….anyway, we are thinking…help us think please on a practical way to fix this…practical way i said

  • I was immediately drawn to the colors and sense of composition demonstrated in this essay. The portraits don’t really work for me. The sense of isolation seems forced. I can tell that the photographer is trying to convey that, but on closer inspection those kids don’t look like they lead isolated existences. Actually, they look quite mentally healthy. And all-in-all, it looks like a pretty nice place to live. Perhaps growing up in a country that doesn’t exist cam be a good thing? Would they really be happier with a Mickey D’s? Just fatter and poorer more likely.

    And Bob, Pete’s right, you really outdid yourself with that one. Seriously. Great stuff. Have you been watching Uncle Vanya again?

  • Although I know the color balance is way off, I love the photo of the evening crows. That photo alone would have made my visit here worth the stop. I am also struck by how much the buildings in this place remind of those in Nuuk, Greenland.

    I agree with the statements about the color, and I also agree that after looking at this, I do not have much of an idea about what it means to grow up in a country that doesn’t exist – but I think I do have a bit of a feeling of the solitary loneliness that the artist feels when she is there.

    And Bob – speaking of books one has just begun to read… the reason I came home so sleep-deprived was because I wound up bunked with a fellow that has the worst case of sleep apnea that I have EVER encountered. My nights were a nightmare, each and every one, and there was no sleeping. One morning, at about 5:00, I contemplated taking a dive out the second-floor window but decided that I would read something instead.

    I opened up my iPad, looked at the titles of the books that I have downloaded and realized that there was only one that I could grasp in this state of extreme sleep deprivation and exasperation:

    Winnie the Pooh.

    So I began to read Winnie the Pooh – for the first time since third grade.

    It is a pretty damn good book. Next time you find yourself suffering through a reading famine, I suggest that you cast aside all notions of Krasznahorkai and go for Pooh.

    It will make you even smarter than you already are.

    It sure did me.

  • PETE ;))))))…

    funny you would mention that as I’ve actually written a bunch of statements for photographers here and elsewhere, or general reflections. Sometimes written and credited (as in my close friend Marc Davidson’s Artifacts essay published here, sometimes for other photographers books) and sometimes quietly not credited (which is totally cool too)…and it was my great pleasure and honor to write a piece, without photos, for BURN01, something for david, anton and all the photogrpahers (long of course, but its there in BURN01)…i’ve also figured someday i would actually do a book with some of the pieces i’ve written at Burn, Krasznahorkai did just that in a small book called Animalinside about the paintings of Max Neuman….someday it’ll happen i think for Burn too, and i’ve put together a small kind of chapbook, but i want to finish my other things…but it is a pleasure and a joy to write about photographs, not only as a photographer myself, but a writer who loves to write about pictures and what they do to and for me :))….

    MW ;)))…thanks…yea, for sure, but keeping the pistol locked in a cabinet ;))

    Frostfrog :))))…funny you’d mentioned Pooh…indeed…reread both milne books 3 years ago when going through some personal difficulty…and just guess what the first book was i downloaded for Kindle? ;)))…


  • I love the colour palette here, particularly in the portraits. Like Frostfrog, I love photo 18.

    Chloe’s statement says “So what does it mean to grow up in a country that doesn’t exist?” so I presume that she has concentrated on the younger population (as I read now in her bio) and this explains the absence of the old. The subjects seem to be friends of the photographer and it would be good (for me) to hear what they thought of life in Trans-Dniester. This could become a long-term essay and answer some of the concerns of stereotype from Imants.

    Nice work Chloe, your use of colour should serve you well. I could see this in the newspaper weekend magazines no-problem.


  • For some reason this essay does not move me at all. Saw it yesterday and nothing….seeing it today, nothing.
    I was actually waiting for Bob Black to give it more dimension and even though I sort of see what he says I still don’t get it.
    #11 is the only photo that evokes a sort of isolation for me.
    I think the subtlety of it goes over my head.
    One thing is for sure…it brought awareness to this part of the world and this issue that otherwise I would not know of.
    Let’s hope these people find their way and not get lost in a psychological labyrinth.
    Having said that….I guess it does move me!

  • At risk of being cast as his parrot, I say “Ditto” to Mike R. (Although in the US we would spell it “color”).

  • I can’t exactly pinpoint why but I really like the images in this essay. I suppose it’s the mix of lovely colours which appeals to me and the indoor images giving a glimpse to their way of life. I’m also struck by the clothes, sort 10 years behind the west which I can’t help finding slightly odd and sad. The wall paper and the wall-paper, paintings, posters hanging on the wall seem very familiar as I used have a business installing kitchens in Spain and I’ve seen many similar decorating elderly couples lounges and dinning-room walls. I got an eyeball kick with N18 and it’s probably the only photo which could perhaps benefit from being turned into BW, or perhaps not because it would probably turn into another cliché image of what looks like ravens flying round in the branches.

  • Loved those photos! “Effortless” feeling i get… skilled photographer!i agree with mike R about sunday paper although i can feel that they will look even better as huge prints , not so much for ipads/laptops/iphones etc..
    id like to see those printed BIG…enlarged…etc

  • ..little details for example no5, which is my fav by far, i would say just re shoot it but straight from the couple extra steps , center the chairs and let me “get into the photo” a la “Twilight Zone” style…minor corrections…other than that…great colors, fresh, “light” feeling , not too many syringes in the children playground etc…pass, for me;)

  • Infinite depth of field let you study more details of the photo and supposedly it lets get in the photo, especially if the print is large…Photog here used that “advantage” to ease our “entry” into the photos instead of just a simple view..this technique though didnt work all around up to its potential..As a viewer you still need to be in a relatively “good shape” to climb that “window” and enter..should have “easier” i think! “Skills” is a major plus, now hard work is another “plus”,and if all that is combined/meshed with natural talent then we have Harvey’s and Koudelka’s!..I do skills here, now about hard work ethics or talent im not the one to judge..;) you figure this out..bottom line? pretty close!

  • typos
    ..should have (been) “easier” i think!

    !..I do (see) skills here,

  • it turns out to be wayyyyyyyy easier to be a decent photographer than be an average story teller

  • Ditto Pete….ditto…i don’t know why i persist with you, even with a smile…remind me some time…rather, never mind

  • Well, I like the concept of a slither of land, although I’m not sure where I would see such a thing outside of an earthquake zone.

  • sometimes I miss a soundtrack for pictures. while most of the captions should not have been written in this essay – they just describe what the viewer sees anyway – some pictures could be much stronger with underlaid sound of a ticking clock in an empty room. (at least this is, what I hear looking at picture 10, the portraits and 11 and 12)
    then, it became clearer what it is about to grow up in a country, that nobody knows.

  • Hmmm…I cant say I know any more about the place after seeing these pictures. A “standard” set of high-rise building shots, a barn, someone’s kitchen, and some people placed affectedly in curious poses. Does nothing for me I’m afraid.

    @ Akaky – indeed, it’s sliver not slither.

  • For me, somehow, it works great. The reason may be that I was growing up in a similar environment, and these images are pretty much like the stuff I have seen and experience during my childhood in Poland; a little bit magical, but pretty closed and isolated society with its all surroundings. I do not need much to relate to these photographs; the connection in my head happens automatically.

    I do not feel like there’s anything missing here – it just does the job. Well done.

  • my suggestion is going to be that photographers get serious outside help with their text…we just do not have the manpower to do it

    David, I remember a couple years ago, some of us were going to be ask to help here and there, as BURN was about to replace Road Trips. You have a lot of manpower unused here on BURN.

    In short: I can help.

    PS: if only so I don’t read again that I went south, only coming back around to win contests and ask for my prizes… :-)))

  • Cannot really get into this essay.. my comment here only in reply to DAH’s question of finding a way for ‘better’ (my word, not his) atrist statements..

    Given that one isn’t obliged to read them, I’m much more interested in what the photographer her/himself has to say, with all the possible flaws, than if it would be a different person interpreting what the photographer wanted to say with the work. I am aware that this is a peeve of mine, I already hated it back in school when we were told what the artist (be it a painter, a musician, a poet, whatever artist) wanted to express, I always thought that it was something to work out between the artists themselves and the audience directly, without the interferring of somebody who ‘knew’.. where did they take their knowledge from? Why should I feel/see the same as them when looking at a painting, listening to music?

    Fine if it is: to me this seems.. but I shudder everytime I read: XY wanted to say..

  • I’ve ghost-written statements for mayors, tribal chiefs, CEO’s and a host of others, all in first person, so hell, so for all you photogs out there who can’t write, just let me know what you would like to say and send me $1891.34 each and I will ghost-write your statements for you in first person so they will read just like you wrote them yourself, only better – and, as a bonus, at no extra charge, I will make certain to include an appropriately placed cuss in no less than one out of every three sentences.

    Bob – Winnie the Pooh was the third book I downloaded into my iPad – right after Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer – all childhood favorites.

  • That reminds me, DAH, I even ghost wrote an article that appeared under another byline in National Geographic.

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