The Belovezhskaya Pushcha in Belarus is an ancient woodland, the last primeval forest in Europe. It has its special place in the history of the country, and is deeply rooted in Belorussian folklore. I wanted to examine the complex human relationship with nature in communities situated closest to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. I was primarily interested in how the proximity of this ancient forest was reflected in both public and private spaces. I traveled around the area, visiting people’s homes, local administration offices, museums, forestry lodges and community centers in search of items and themes related to nature.
Feature / Stand By / Primeval forest by Jan Brykczynski
Stand By (2011-2012) Seven Sputnik photographers went to Belarus to see what was hidden behind the statement “the last dictatorship in Europe”. Slowly, layer by layer, they filtered Belarus and discovered it for themselves. The project, during which the material of the book was compiled, went on for two years. During this time the photographers wanted to collect material to show daily life in Belarus, since things that are seemingly distant from the world of politics and the Lukashenko regime are absent from media reports broadcast around the world. As Victor Martinovich writes in his essay on Belarus: “At every turn, you come across examples of a double system; there are two writers’ unions, between 1996 and 1999 there were even two parliaments. Life is hard, but at the same time when you come to Minsk, everything is clean and tidy”. The authors of “Stand By” didn’t want to create a political material. They immersed themselves in daily life, talking about war and memory (Andrei Liankevich, Agnieszka Rayss), modern Belarusian heroes and the language of propaganda (Rafał Milach), the oldest forest in Europe (Jan Brykczyński), fashion (Adam Pańczuk), women who want to marry a foreigner (Justyna Mielnikiewicz). Photographers: Andrei Liankevich, Agnieszka Rayss, Jan Brykczyński, Adam Pańczuk, Rafał Milach, Justyna Mielnikiewicz and Manca Juvan Curator: Andrzej Kramarz Book design: Ania Nalecka / Tapir Book Design