'Belarus in Focus 2011', featuring works by Belarusian photo reporters, opened on April 5th, 2012, in Warsaw
The exhibition ‘Belarus in Focus’ is right in the centre of Warsaw, near the Old Town. It will be seen not only by people living in Warsaw, but also the droves of tourists who visit the Polish capital, and often know little about Poland’s eastern neighbour.
Photo: Siarzhuk Hapon. Militia in plain-clothes break up a protest on the anniversary of the presidential election. Minsk, December 2011.
Work by Belarusian reporters, whose photographs are generally published in independent Belarusian media or abroad, are featured in the exhibition. The photo reporters are: Dmitry Brushko, Julia Darashkevich, Siarzhuk Hapon, Siarhei Hudzilin, Alexander Vasukovich, and Sergey Vasilyev. While opening the exhibition, Julia Darashkevich said that she wished she could have chosen other photographs than those on display, but unfortunately, those were the ones that reflected the events that keep Belarus in the international spotlight. “Photographers in Belarus are already used to bad news and sometimes it seems that it won’t get any worse, but every year it does’, said Darashevich.
Photo: Dmitry Brushko. The last working day of an outdoor market, closed due to the economic crisis, Minsk, May 2011.
All present – Belarusians, Poles, and representatives of several other countries, agreed that the photographs show how tough the past year was in Belarus. Political prisoners, brutal break-ups of peaceful protests and rough treatment of journalists, huge queues for foreign currency and empty shelves in shops and in markets as a result of a serious economic crisis, a bloody terrorist attack and the trial of two young men subsequently found guilty of carrying out the terrorist act and executed, as well as other sad moments from 2011 in Belarus.
Photo: Dmitry Brushko. The militia block a street during a silent protest. Minsk, June 2011.
The director of Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, Yuliya Slutskaya, noted that ‘it is always interesting the way in which these photographs, topics which are so commonplace for Belarusians, really draw foreigners, peoples who live in a different reality and know neither what is happening in Belarus, nor the conditions in which Belarusian journalists work. Press Club Polska’s President of the Board, Jarosław Włodarczyk, noted that passers-by are drawn not so much by the photos of mass protests, which can be seen on Polish TV screens. ‘They are drawn to the photographs of empty shelves – they were surprised that the situation in their closest neighbour could be so bad’, said Włodarczyk.
Photo: Siarhei Hudzilin. March of participants in a silent protest in the centre of Minsk. Minsk, June 2011.
The exhibition ‘Belarus in Focus’ is possible thanks to kind support from the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw. Representatives of the mission were present at the ceremony, including the ambassador himself, Daniel Costello. Ambassador Costello commented that Canada negatively viewed the current situation in Belarus ‘We are willing to cooperate with the authorities of countries with whom we have a similar world view, for example, EU countries. While Canada and Belarus are geographically far apart, we are close here, in Warsaw.’ Costello added that the Canadian authorities will continue to use every opportunity to open the doors to Belarus.
The exhibition will be on display for the coming weeks at Krakowskie Przedmieście 64 (in front of Dom Polonii). The organizers of the exhibition are Solidarity with Belarus Information Office and Press Club Polska, with support from the Canadian Embassy in Poland.