Rafał Milach presents the stories of Russians who were born in the USSR, but whose adult lives run their course in the Russia of Vladimir Putin. This is a tale of ordinary people, of their friends and family, and of the world in which they live. In Milach’s photographs are to be found neither extremism nor sensationalism. We observe the everyday life of representatives of the generation of thirty-somethings that the photographer has been a witness to over the course of the last six years. “I have been through three phases in my relationships with my heroes. First, they were my guides through their cities, then they became the heroes of my photos, and then finally they became friends with whom I talk more than I photograph”,’ the artist explains.
The series 7 Rooms is composed of six stories whose heroes come from various parts of the former Soviet Union. Gala lived in Yekaterinburg, but then emigrated with her family to France. Mira’s roots are in Khakassia, she was born in Moscow and spent most of her life in Krasnoyarsk. Sasha and Nastya from Yekaterinburg live in their own world, not making any concessions to the world around them. Lena is a Kazakh with Russian roots, who lives in Moscow and is an immunologist. Stas, a journalist, is a ‘real Siberian bear’ who lives in Krasnoyarsk with his family, but travels a great deal, writing texts for election campaigns. Vasya is from a village near to Yekaterinburg. During the day he looks after his young daughter, while by night, under the pseudonym of Panikchida, he is a star of the local drag queen scene.
The seventh room of the title is above all dedicated to the reports of Svetlana Alexievitch, in other words to the metaphorical baggage of the generation born in the USSR. No matter whether this is the space of the double life of Vasya or the room of Sasha and Nastya, it nonetheless constitutes a single narrative. A separate space at the exhibition is dedicated to each story, within which photographs are accompanied by the heroes’ stories. The entrance to the exhibition is a multimedia installation showing each of the characters in their surroundings: at home, at work, on their housing estate or in the city.
An important supplement to the stories presented by Milach are fragments from Alexievitch’s book Enchanted with Death (published in the folder accompanying the exhibition). The author tells the private stories of people whose lives have unfolded together with the end of the Soviet Union. The broadening of 7 Rooms to include the question of memory and the contrasting of contemporary history with a history that is still very recent opens the possibility of a better understanding of Russians. On completing the project, Rafał Milach said: ‘In Russia, there are a huge number of paradoxes. Sometimes it seemed to me that I understood some of them, only to find that my next trip proved that I was mistaken’.
Rafał Milach (born 1978, Gliwice, Poland)
Rafał Milach is considered one of the most interesting Polish photographers of the younger generation. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice (Poland) in 2003 and the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava (Czech Republic) in 2004, lives and works in Warsaw. His main area of interest is documentary photography. In 2006 together with 10 other Central Eastern European photographers he created a photo collective Sputnik Photos to document, promote and spread knowledge on transition issues in CEE countries. He is the author of many known photographic series, such as The Grey (2002), Disappearing Circus (2008), Black Sea of Concrete (2009) or 7 Rooms (2011). His unique approach to photography has earned him many awards in Poland and abroad. In 2007 he took part in Joop Swart Masterclass run by World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam. He was awarded 1st Prize at the World Press Photo contest in the category Arts and Entertainment in 2008, Grand Press Photo in 2009 and in 2011 three prizes at the New York Photo Festival in the categories: Photographic Book, Advertising and the main award for the series In the Car with R. Rafał Milach collaborates with many editorial offices in Poland and abroad: Newsweek, Time, Le Monde 2, Die Zeit, La Repubblica, Polityka, Przekroj, Gazeta Wyborcza – Duży Format. In 2011 he became a guest lecturer of the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava. In the frame of the project IS(not), realized by Sputnik Photos he has created a photographic journal from his journey to Iceland (the photos are accompanied by a text by Huldar Breidfjord). He is the author of many individual exhibitions and took part in many group exhibitions, some of them with the collective Sputnik Photos.
In the Car with R, Czytelnia Sztuki, Gliwice, Poland, 2012
The Black Sea of Concrete, Yours Gallery, Warsaw, Poland, 2010; V8 Gallery, Cologne, Germany, 2011
Disappearing Circus, 8th International Photographic Triennial in Tampere, Finland, 2008; Hangar 22, Tel Awiw, Israel, 2010
Young Russia, Yours Gallery, Warsaw, Poland, 2007; Galeria Camelot, Cracow, Poland, 2008
The Grey, PHotoEspana, Off Section, Madrid, Spain, 2003; Ra Gallery, Kyiv, Ukraine, 2008
In the Car with R, Gliwice: Czytelnia Sztuki, 2012
7 Rooms, Heidelberg and Berlin: Kehrer Verlag, 2011
The Grey, Bytom: Frodo, 2002
curator Joanna Kinowska
partner of the exhibition DeBenedetti Majewski Szcześniak
sponsors of the gallery: PERI, Netia, Lidex
sponsors of the opening ceremony: DeLonghi, Kenwood, Blikle, Freixenet, Kinga Pienińska
media patronage: Gazeta Wyborcza, TOK FM, The Warsaw Voice, Stolica, Artinfo.pl