Saturday, October 20, 2012

NEW: Brief Photobook Reviews (Week 41, 2012). By Joerg Colberg (

In this case ... the book is about Belarus, I know ... but the book is fantastic - with the great polish photographer Justyna Mielnikiewicz (a resident in Tbilisi) 

( Sputnik Photos is a collective of photojournalists from Central/Eastern Europe. For Stand By, Andrei Liankevich, Agnieszka Rayss, Jan Brykczynski, Adam Panczuk, Rafal Milach, Justyna Mielnikiewicz and Manca Juvan went to Belarus, often called “the last dictatorship in Europe.” Given the diversity of the participating photographers and the complexity of the subject matter, the resulting book is a surprisingly coherent and interesting affair. In fact, my sole complaint would be that it took me a while to figure out it was about Belarus (I might be just a bit dense, but a word at the beginning might have helped). This little detail aside, the book comprises the whole spectrum of contemporary documentary/photojournalistic practice, and it’s done very, very smartly. Magnum et al. might want to take note: There are some smart new players in town, and work like Stand By shows that you don’t have to try to be cool on a Tumblr to show that you’re relevant.


Stand By is the most recent project by Sputnik Photos photographers: Andrei Liankevich, Agnieszka Rayss, Jan Brykczynski, Adam Panczuk, Rafal Milach, Justyna Mielnikiewicz and Manca Juvan. With this book and upcoming exhibitions photographers try to fill the gup in visuall story telling about Belarus and figure out what is behind the slogan of "last dictatorship in Europe". Up-coming exhibition in fall 2012.  


( Stand By. Various photographers.
Photographs by Andrei Liankevich (Belarus), Rafal Milach (Poland), Adam Panczuk (Poland), Agnieszka Rayss (Poland), Manca Juvan (Slovenia), Jan Brykczynski (Poland), Justyna Mielnikiewicz (Poland)

Text by Victor Martinovich (English and Belarusian)

Concept and Design by Ania Nalecka / Tapir Book Design
Published by Sputnik Photos, Warsaw, Poland, 2012. Limited edition of 1,000 copies.
[Purchase: Sputnik Photos]

Stand By is a book about Belarus, its people, culture, everyday life, search for identity. Seven photographers (Belarus, Poland and Slovenia) present their stories/vision on the country: war, landscape, fashion, war veterans, immigration. The title Stand By symbolises “ready and waiting” state (reminds another recent book on Belarus The Waiting Room by Bill Crandall). It also refers to a widely used propaganda slogan “For Belarus” (BY is a country code for Belarus).

Belarusian photographer Andrei Liankevich explores symbols and presence of war in the Belarusian society and asks questions about his own identity. “War has never been anything close to me in emotional sense. It was a story about “every fourth man who died in Belarus”. But I have never sensed it personally. There was no sorrow, no pain. I have always asked myself: “why is the war such a widely discussed subject?”

Rafal Milach captures people’s homes and their stories. Adam Panczuk learns about Belarusians by their distinct fashion styles. “Once there, I started out with what jumped out at first sight - the care Belarusians took of their dress”.
Agnieszka Rayss photographs female war veterans: beautiful portraits and touching stories. Manca Juvan (Slovenia) talks to the Belarusian community in New York.

Jan Brykczynski is curious about the Bialowieza National Park. In his essay “Primary Forest” he shows how Belarusians recreate elements of the Forest in their home interiors (paintings, carpets, stuffed animals).

Justyna Mielnikiewicz’s project “City of Women” shows Belarusian girls who use matrimonial agency run by Maya Cherkova to find a husband. “Her agency, Gimeney, is not the quintessential meat market where repugnant Westerners purchase young Slavic beauties for trophy wives. <…> Their stories dispel many of the myths about matrimonial agencies and reveal the deeper social conditions peculiar both to this specific region and Belarus as a whole, where man are spoiled by an abiding myriad of beautiful women, the western concept if feminism is relative to Belarusian relality”.

Stand By is a strong work and a beautiful photobook. The book has an elegant design (slightly different for each essay) and interesting picture editing. It shows fascinating and mostly unknown to outside world layers of Belarusian society/people.


Regina Anzenberger ( Eine Neuerscheinung, die mir sehr gut gefällt, ist das Buch „STAND BY“ über Weißrussland des osteuropäischen Sputnik Photo Kollektivs, an dem Fotografen wie Andrei Liankevich, Agnieszka Rayss, Rafal Milach u.a. beteiligt sind. Es ist das jüngste Projekt von Sputnik, das schon einige interessante Bücher herausgegeben hat (Anm. des Autors: Der Band ist über die AnzenbergerGallery zu beziehen).



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