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Impressions Gallery

exhibitions: past

not Natasha

Dana Popa

05th Feb - 18th Apr 2010

Impressions Gallery, in partnership with Autograph ABP, presents 
not Natasha by award-winning photographer Dana Popa.

This hard-hitting and harrowing project, made over the last four years, documents the experiences of sex-trafficked women from Moldova through photography and collected stories. Popa says, ‘Natasha is the nickname given to prostitutes with Eastern European looks. Sex trafficked girls hate it’.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of the main source countries for trafficking women and children, with up to 10% of the female population sold into prostitution abroad. Poverty, the desire for a better life, and the need to escape broken families and oppression make them vulnerable to traffickers, who offer false promises of well-paid jobs abroad. Once arrived in the country of destination, the girls are sold to pimps and their passports confiscated.

Popa worked with the International Organisation for Migration and Winrock International in Moldova, where she photographed and documented the disturbing experiences of these women. She also collected the stories of those who remain disappeared, photographing their families, homes, and in some cases children who were left behind. Finally, she documented the spaces where trafficked women are forced into prostitution in the brothels of Soho, London.

Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph ABP, says, ‘Popa’s photographs are a powerful enquiry into a pervasive form of violence against women. They are a tragic reminder of just how vulnerable and powerless women are globally, and expose the futility of universal declarations’.

Dana Popa (born 1977, Romania) is a photo-artist based in London who graduated from the London College of Communication. Popa specialises in contemporary social issues, with a particular emphasis on human rights. In 2007, not Natasha received the Jury Prize in the Days Japan International Photojournalism Awards and the Jerwood Photography Award. In 2010 Dana Popa was awarded first place in the world renowned Center Project Competition 2010. Dana’s work has been exhibited widely and includes the Noorderlicht Photofestival in Leeuwarden, at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Tokyo and in the exhibition Moving Walls 14 at the Open Society Institute in New York.

Exhibition resources

Click here to download the essay Beyond the Lens by Mark Sealy (.doc 148kb)
Click here to download an Information Sheet about the exhibition not Natasha (.pdf 716kb)

Listen again

Click here to listen to Dana Popa's Artist Talk, recorded at Impressions Gallery on Saturday 27 February 2010 (.mp3 27mb)

Below you can watch the film Two Little Girls narrated by Juliet Stevenson, which is being shown in the exhibition and highlights the issues in Popa's work. This is a powerful and cautionary tale which has already become a talking point amongst victims of the sex-trafficking trade. While many films on the subject are often distressing and difficult to watch, this film draws in the audience with its animated fairy tale style and music before hitting home with its serious message.

What the papers say

Telegraph and Argus
Metro (pdf 412kb)
The Yorkshire Post (pdf 338kb)
The Times (pdf 408kb)

From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa

From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa

Dana Popa

Click on thumbnail below to enlarge

From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa From 'not Natasha' © Dana Popa


Powerful and evocative work which speaks to ’Client demand’ and ’vulnerability of aspiration’ Truly shocking that London with it’s first world arrogance, is immersed in the trade of human beings. Truly wretched.

Exhibitions Visitor

Thought provoking, art as it should be used to document and inform. While the subject matter is horrific the images themselves are beautiful and will stay with me.

Exhibitions Visitor

An,excellent, thought provoking and disturbing body of work, that rightly challenges society and its lack of effective response to modern slavery.

Richard Brooks

Whilst i’m very sympathetic to the plight of females caught up in the appalling sex trafficking industry, i want to criticise the film for mis-representation.

This wasn’t the story of two little girls, it was the story of two young women - they weren’t trafficked as children. And as normal young women, they should perhaps, have some skepticism about men’s promises - even accompanied with such assurances as "trust me".

I have just been informed of this but unfortunately, I don’t think I shall be able to go to Bradford on 27th Feb.
I work for the Medaille Trust on raising awareness of Global Human Trafficking and with CROP on internal trafficking.
I am REALLY interested in any DVDs or power points you have on human trafficking.
I have just given a short workshop on Trafficking in Canterbury. Follow-up material would be great to have.
Thank you for raising this heart-rending issue.

isabel kelly

Thank you for sharing these beautiful, moving pictures. A very sad story, but it’s these stories that need to be told in a way that raises the interest of the audience, keeping them engaged. This is something that you do wonderful. Thank you

Exhibitions Visitor

Very moving images of something few people would readily acknowledge. Disturbing yet thought provoking.

Exhibitions Visitor

thought provoking and moving

’This wasn’t the story of two little girls, it was the story of two young women - they weren’t trafficked as children. And as normal young women, they should perhaps, have some skepticism about men’s promises - even accompanied with such assurances as "trust me".

marc cheyne’

It seems more proportionate to me to focus first on those responsible for the business of trafficking and enslaving others, rather than starting with the lesser ’crime’ of ’being too trusting/desperate for an escape from poverty’...

What you advocate above, Mr Cheyne, is the old, old strategy that goes like this: ’expect men to be untrustworthy, and expect women to solve men’s untrustworthiness by taking responsibility for being ever watchful and ever to blame if they are not watchful enough’.

If that strategy was going to solve our social ills and make people happy, it would have done so by now. But it hasn’t and it never will, so it is a very good thing that we have exhibitions and events like this and also that we still have International Women’s Day itself.

Sorry Sally, I don’t see Marc’s comments as meaning anything like that. I take them to mean that the film implies one thing and is really about something else. That is slightly disingenuous which slightly undercuts its moral position. The fact is that desperation leads women to fall for rogues even more easily than they normally do - in the same way it leads men to fall for get-rich schemes. I suspect there are almost as many female go-betweens and con-artists in reality as males in this slave trade - and doubtless a few other criminal activities - in the same way that coastal Africans sold central Africans to white slavers in the past. I think you’re over-simplifying some of the issues and the reality is that the more people need to trust others the easier and more attractive prey they become. The more anyone needs help it would seem, the less likely they are to get it. Governments don’t usually do anything much unless public opinion forces them to. They spend most of their energies climbing the slippery pole to stab each other in the back. To try to lay all criminal activity at the feet of men seems a little naive at best.

Harry Mancini

I left with a lump in my throat, holding tightly my child’s hand

Exhibitions Visitor

Beautiful photograph’s of a harrowing subject. Very sensitive work, moving and inspiring. It’s good to see such quality documenting work in a gallery space and so important to show the truth to the domestic UK audience.

Exhibitions Visitor

Mr Mancini
Please notice that I did NOT lay all the blame at men’s feet in my post! I advocated targeting ’those responsible for the business of trafficking and enslaving others’ - WHOEVER they may be.
Where I mentioned gender, it was to address Mr Cheyne’s comment that ’as normal young women, [the women in the video] should perhaps, have some skepticism about men’s promises’. He didn’t say ’THESE men’s promises’ - just ’men’s promises’ in general! I was taking issue with HIS sexism, actually.
To me, the video is not misleading - it contrasts the beginning of the women’s lives, including their youthful dreams, with the irony of how things ended up for them - that’s the relevance of beginning with their young lives in the film. It doesn’t suggest that they remain helpless children, only that poverty subsequently makes them vulnerable and narrows their options. Yes it’s a partial take on the whole subject, but a very valid one.

Sally Moss

Thank you for an inspiring visit. I was impressed by the blackboard - a clear and sustainable way to advertise and promote exhibitions and events in the gallery.

I came specifically to see ’Not Natasha’ and was overwhelmed. To say I enjoyed it seems inappropriate..... but all credit to you for displaying such an important collection of work and giving a voice to the subject.

Exhibitions Visitor

Another great exhibition. Well done Impressions Gallery. Thought evoking images, great use of photography.

Marisa Cashill