The Affectionate Kalpana – My story of Class Mobility, 2017–2020

Countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, and India, which are currently undergoing great economic transitions, experience a very rapid change in social structure. Due to these developments, the rate of class mobility has been increasing throughout the past decade, leading to new wealth and social status for a minor group of people that have previously been living in poverty.

Jari Silomäki started gathering personal stories of people who have experienced social class movement, thereby creating a collective narrative that tells one story with countless facets, but the same outcome: wealth and status. Even though only a small group of people is affected by this, they have gained a certain influence on their surroundings through catalyzing economic growth in the building, education, entertainment, and technology sector. Yet, the variety of stories shows that – depending on the country and gender – these people have struggled or still struggle with social acceptance, sometimes even being boycotted by long-term business and political elites in their home countries. The crony capitalism that cannot adapt to the rapidity of social restructuring processes, considering the ‘Nouveaux Riches’ as eyesores, undergoing the previous system and thereby leading to instability. Not descending from the upper class, the subjects’ families neither had wealth nor status. They are the first generation who achieved success and will pass it on to their children, thus creating a new elite of wealth.

Silomäki’s works represent stories of suffering and longing, of failure, frustration, and self-questioning that eventually turned into pride and success – how can one capture this flood of emotions in only one single photographic shot? As Silomäki’s artistic approach is rooted in both classical documentary and narrative photography, he has developed a unique way of storytelling, constantly finding new ways of exploring the limits of photography as a document. By juxtaposing intimate views into his subjects’ private homes with images of the essential places of their everyday life – such as high-end condominiums, glamorous boulevards, or sports clubs – Silomäki combines the outer and the inner world, navigating through psychological processes while capturing economic and urban development.