Photographer Captures The Life Of A 2-Year-Old Girl Growing Up With Drug-Addict Parents

Russian photographer Irina Popova has stirred waves of controversy with her “Another Family” photo series, which delves into the life of a family living in the dark underbelly of modern Russia.

Russian photographer Irina Popova has captured the family life of little 2-year-old Anfisa and her drug-addict parents, raising a difficult question - is the photographer an impartial observer and communicator of truth, or must she, as a human being, intervene in the little girl’s life?

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Irina Popova's photo-essay entitled 'Another Family' sparked national outrage when its portrayal of two St. Petersburg's addicts seemingly oblivious to their two-year-old girl, Anfisa, was shared widely online.

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Two-year-old Anfisa plays with a sleeping Lilya's cigarettes. Her mother and father are drug-users, and their home is often noisy and full of occasional guests.

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Parents Lilya and Pasha were captured living a raucous life of drug-fueled partying - while their daughter was allowed to wander to the ledge of an open window, play with their cigarettes and come face-to-face with her strung-out father's genitals while he slept-off his latest binge.

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Pasha and a friend partying, with 2-year-old Anfisa in the foreground

“Pasha and his guest are too aggressive against society in a punk-culture-style.”

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When the photographs were exhibited in St. Petersburg they were nominated for awards, but when the images made it online, a campaign was started to get Anfisa away from Lilya and Pasha and put into an orphanage

Anfisa is seemingly in danger as she comes close to the window edge in her parents’ apartment. However, there’s a safety net that is not clearly shown in the picture.

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Anger was mostly directed towards Popova, who was 21 when she took the photographs in 2008, for not intervening. She was labeled an opportunist for taking advantage of the drug-addicts and for not alerting anyone in a position of authority.

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'I couldn’t imagine the reactions at all,' Popova said about the backlash against her. 'Maybe it’s weird, but my intention was to talk about the possibilities of love on the margins of society, and I hoped to bring more understanding, to build a bridge between people and to raise awareness that bringing up a child is not an easy task.'

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The photographer claimed that the negative reaction was startling to her, because she claims that what is portrayed in the photographs was not the whole truth of Anfisa's life

Lilya and Pasha look at their daughter

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She claims that the startling images are just that and do not represent the ability of Pasha and Lilya to raise their daughter. 'The truth is that life is complex and there are many situations too complicated to be judged,' she said.

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According to Irina, she thought "it was important to make people think more about the level of truth which they usually don’t want to think about"

Parents and child spend time together.

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She said that viewers couldn’t imagine that the couple they saw in the photographs could raise a child properly, so they lashed out against both the parents and her for publishing the images.

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Pasha tickles the feet of his daughter Asfina in one of Irina Popova's revealing portraits

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Irina's project began with an assignment to photograph "feelings." Shortly thereafter, she ran into Lilya outside of an underground club close to St. Petersburg, Russia. Lilya was totally drunk but had a baby in a stroller.

Irina Popova found Lilya on the streets of St. Petersburg with Asfina in her stroller

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Lilya agreed enthusiastically when Irina asked her about doing a photo shoot and even invited the photographer back to her apartment, where she met Lilya’s boyfriend Pasha. This started what would ultimately become Popova’s book, Another Family.

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Over the next couple of weeks, Irina took photographs of the young family in their tiny apartment. Friends moved freely in and out of the space, music was played, people partied with alcohol and drugs, all with Anfisa present.

Lilya and Pasha pose in a picture from Irina Popova who published her photographic essay 'Another Family' to huge scorn

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The photographs Popova took during that period were shown in a gallery in St. Petersburg (attended by Lilya and Pasha) and then shared on the Internet. Outrage quickly built. Viewers were upset by the way they perceived the couple to be treating their child.

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Seen here is Lilya asking car drivers on the parking for money, using her little daughter like an argument to give her money on the children food

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The raw and provocative images speak both of dangerous negligence and of enduring familial love, sometimes in the same image.

Lilya at an exhibition of the project's images.

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The whole family came to the exhibition opening at Mayakovsky Library in St. Petersburg six months after the first photo shoot. They said they found the images nice and funny and didn't expect the harsh reaction that followed.

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Without access to the Internet, Popova felt she owed it to them to explain - especially after the police began asking her for their address.

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Pasha became angry at Irina because of the brush with the law and now refuses to speak to her. Lilya was relaxed, but 6 months after the controversy in 2012 she disappeared, leaving Anfisa with her father.

Lilya and Pasha had an argument about the money on the street. They went in different directions, but at the last moment, they both looked back

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She sought treatment for her addictions and is no longer with Pasha and works in a St. Petersburg clothe shop. Pasha now works part-time as an electrician while he looks after his daughter with his new partner and her son.

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Young Anfisa was not taken from her parents and is attending kindergarten. Her father, Pasha, now takes care of Anfisa.

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