Magnum Foundation

Magnum Foundation

Rafal Milach on his Experiment: Photographing as Part of the System

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BELARUS - It’s mostly driving 200-300km per day. I pay a short visit, have a brief talk, take a picture and I move on. I’m guided and pointed where, who, when I should photograph and I’m happy to do that. This is an experiment. I want to check if it’s possible to withdraw as a photographer from what you actually photograph. I want to be instructed and channel someone else’s expectations into pictures. The whole thing should be about the facade and the mechanisms behind the system rather than about the photographer himself. To succeed, I have to become a part of that system. Timing is short and the schedule is pretty dense. Together with Sveta, who helps me, we have to photograph more than 100 motives. I take notes - brief ones -I’m not interested in what’s behind the facade that I’m offered by authorities and even if I was, there would not be time for that.

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I have never worked like that. As a documentary photographer I always wanted to be as close as possible to people I photographed. But this time it’s different. It’s not about people. I don’t want to focus on individuals and I don’t want the viewer to focus on that either. Sometimes it’s hard but I try to stay away from personal stories which still pop up sometimes. I want to distract’s viewers from individuals. This should be a surface as I’m photographing the Belarusian winners. And one last thing, it’s not funny. 

- Rafal Milach, 2013 Emergency Fund Grantee

Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus, has been called the last remaining dictatorship of Europe. The regime, accused of violating constitutional and human rights, is largely uncovered and underreported. Exploring the propagandist motto “everything is under control and Belarus has a bright future ahead," Rafal Milach is photographing the winners of various regional and national contests and the sense of pride purported by state institutions.