New East Digital Archive

Face value: documenting Estonia, one portrait at a time

Birgit Püve's photographic quest for Estonian national identity

Tallin-based photographer Birgit Püve has always been interested in Estonian national identity and the country’s place in the contemporary world. She’s not alone in her quest: photographer Triin Kerge, for example, set on a similar search through interiors. The focus of Püve’s project Estonian Documents, however, is faces. “The human face is the best document of time, so I started to photograph Estonian people constantly from 2012. Through the portraits of known and unknown Estonians I aim to explore the little eastern European nation as a whole,” she explains. All portraits are shot against a plain grey background which also serves as a metaphor for a country whose past is full of grey areas: Püve’s Estonians are removed from their everyday environments, so there is nothing but faces to trace their past, present and future.