Communist era store windows


David Hlynsky has an amazing photo gallery of Communist Europe storefront displays and signs.

Between 1986 and 1990, I made approximately 8,000 color, Hasselblad images on the streets of Communist Europe. I purposely avoided dramatic moments and newsworthy events. In a cityscape without commercial seduction, banality seemed to signify everything. At first I was interested in simple pedestrian traffic. Later I doggedly documented store windows. These seemed to signify the real difference between East and West. Without the garish ad campaigns of the West, these streets felt more neutral… devoid of trumped up and pumped up urgency.

Once upon a time in the Cold War we tempted global suicide over the content of our respective shop windows. Perhaps this is too simplistic. Dramatists called it a fight for freedom. But that seems like a line from a Disney trailer, too. As it happens, the East collapsed not because it was "evil" but because its own marketplace of ideas and things finally ran out of promise. For now at least… and for better or worse, Free Enterprise has proven itself one of the grandest freedom of all. Eastern windows are already filling with the Western simulacrum… a new utopia built out of flash and seduction. But the East Bloc windows I photographed were far from bankrupt. Yes, they were unpretentious, naive and seemed ironic. But they also contained an inventory of our most common human needs. That alone ought to have brought us together