Stand By” is a photographic story about Belarus, referred to as “Europe’s last dictatorship.” It consists of the work of seven photographers from the international Sputnik Photos collective. The project, during which the materials for the book and exhibition were created, took two years. The very title of the exhibition shows that history is not that simple, requiring us to stop and think, to press the “pause” button. This is what Belarus seems to look like – stopped, standing, lasting, not subjected to change. Finally, writing “BY” in capital letters points immediately to Belarus and its international abbreviation. The title is difficult to read because there was imposed on it a Cyrillic slogan “For Belarus” – the most popular and official slogan of the country’s current government.
The photographers wanted to show everyday life in Belarus, matters seemingly distant from politics and Lukashenko’s regime, facts not present in media coverage. Some of the problems were raised without even entering Belarus.
As Victor Martinovich wrote in his essay, in Belarus “at every turn you will encounter examples of the dual system. There are two writers’ unions, and 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 well cared for.” These dualities are studied from both the inside and outside, by Belarusian as well as Polish photographers. The exhibition shows unknown places and touches upon surprising topics, but also toys with stereotypes and verifies or confirms myths.
Sputnik Photos is an international collective founded in 2006 by documentary photographers from Central and Eastern Europe. Artists are united by a desire to observe and describe the surroundings, their common experience of living in Central and Eastern Europe in the post-transformation period.
The members of the collective are recognized photographers from Poland and Central and Eastern Europe, winners of important international awards, such as World Press Photo or Pictures of the Year International. They have organized several dozen exhibitions around the world; their projects have been featured at photography festivals and in international magazines.
Photographic books, on which they work with journalists and writers, are an important part of the collective work. The graphic design of their projects is handled by Ania Nalecka / Tapir Book Design. Sputnik Photos are organizing workshops, mentorship programs and provide consultations.
Sputnik Photos photographers: Andrej Balco, Jan Brykczyński, Manca Juvan, Andrei Liankevich, Michał Łuczak, Justyna Mielnikiewicz, Rafał Milach, Adam Pańczuk, Agnieszka Rayss.
Project coordination is handled by Marzena Michałek.