Silver Linings is an ongoing long term project that follows a group of homeless people, inhabiting underground central heating systems in the centre of Romania’s capital, Bucharest. Life on the streets can be a very traumatising and an isolating experience, where forced prostitution, drug or sexual abuse and other forms of violence go unreported daily.
As a result of the very popular use of synthetic drugs, Romania experienced a tragic HIV epidemic in 2009: new infection rates skyrocketed, and life-threatening opportunistic infections like tuberculosis or hepatitis spread rapidly. In recent years, the EU and governmental funds for harm reduction services have been cut drastically, leaving any local NGOs and outreach units without sufficient money for services like e.g. free medical examinations, drug substitution- or needle exchange programmes.
The images therefore aim to tell the story of people who are living in the shadow of the government, with hardly any medical, educational or fnancial support. Together, they have built something resembling a home, when other institutions like family, orphanages or shelters have failed them. Living at the fringe of society, their only power lies within the strength of existing as a community, underground.
Yasmin Balai is a German-Iranian photographer with a First Class Honours degree in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales, Newport.
Her projects are based on her work as a social activist, with a strong interest in the representation and identity of marginalised groups, both as an individual and as a community within society.
Throughout her projects, Yasmin works in close contact with social workers and NGOs who are involved in the communities’ daily lives, to be able to support and learn about her subjects in more depth.
Yasmin’s work has been selected and awarded by the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award 2015, Magnum Photos (Winner of ‘Faces of a Vibrant Economy 2016’), the PDN Exposure Award 2016 and the Vonovia Award für Fotografie 2017, amongst others.
all images © Yasmin Balai