10 Favorite Photographs of Alexander Vasukovich
Born and lives in Minsk. Has been a photojournalist since 2011. Received the main prize of Belarus Press Photo in 2012, as well as the first prize in Multimedia category.
Paratroopers are celebrating the Day of Airborne Forces by their traditional swimming in fountains. This is my oldest photograph, and I still like it. At the time, I was not a professional photographer yet — I took photographs for my blog, because I liked doing it.
People think that if you photograph paratroopers they beat you up. I was a bit concerned, but decided to try anyway. I came up to a group of drinking men and said something like: “Happy holiday, guys!”, which left me with a plastic cup of vodka. After I drank it in one shot, I could photograph almost anything.
This photograph shows the fighters of Donbass volunteer battalion [fighting on the Ukrainian government side in the war in eastern Ukraine — Ed.], Yura ‘Veter’ and Vitalik ‘Aver’, immediately after a failed storming of Popasna, a town in Luhansk oblast. They are 24 and 26, a bartender and a designer. This photograph is a part of the project I undertook to investigate who goes to serve as a volunteer fighter and why.
Then, according to the intelligence, there were no separatists in the city, the battalion needed to go in and do a quick sweep. But it went wrong, we were ambushed. When we managed to retreat, everybody stopped right on the road, waiting for further instructions, and I saw that Aver and Veter are sitting near the APC with the blood of one of the crew on it.
Funnels in the sunflower field somewhere between Popasna and Artemivsk [now Bakhmut]. I often passed by with the military, but we never stopped. And one time I was lucky to take this picture. These are the traces of war that will disappear: now there are funnels, but in a year it will be just a beautiful field of sunflowers. Unfortunately, it is not like this with people who die in wars — they do not come back.
In this photograph, a young vet with a doomed look on his face is walking past an enclosure with cows. He is not very happy with his job, because in Belarus the university can still send you to work wherever the state needs you for two years after you graduate, if your tuition fee was paid from the state budget. Should I even mention that graduates usually get sent to places where nobody else wants to work by choice.
This is a portrait from my project ‘One out of Every Three Women’ about domestic violence in Belarus. I work on it together with the journalist Daria Tsarik. I take the portraits of the survivors, and she records the interviews with them. We usually work with the aftermath: some time passes after the aggression, the survivors go through rehabilitation, and only after that we work with them.
However, this case was different: we talked to a woman only several days after her husband tried to strangle her. Her whole face and neck were bruised. For me, it is this photograph that can explain what domestic violence is, without words.
A protester during Maidan protests in Kyiv in early 2014 is carrying a tire on a long pole that he will throw over the burnt cars in Hrushevskoho Street, where the law enforcement forces are standing. I like this photograph, it mesmerises me — everything around us was like a movie then.
Portrait of the mother of Vladislav Kovalyov, who was accused of co-organizing a terror attack in the Minsk metro. The terror attack killed 15 people. Many people, myself included, did not believe that the real perpetrators were caught, as they were caught literally the next day.
I took this portrait before the trial, but I knew even then that there will be no ‘not guilty’ verdict. Unfortunately, if someone is accused in Belarus, the authorities do not take their words back. In this situation, it is emotionally very hard to realize that there is nothing you can do. Both young men accused of perpetrating a terror attack received a death sentence, which was carried out in March 2012.
My grandfather is a WWII veteran. And every time on May 9, instead of celebrating or attending the parade, he plants potatoes. Just because it is a day off, and the communal horse is free to use on that day. We come to help him.
On one of these trips I saw that the guys from the border guard service whose location is nearby were diligently painting the monument to those who fought in the war (they have monuments like this in every village). I thought immediately that the state cares much more about monuments than veterans. And so I took a series of portraits of veterans next to these monuments — to remind everyone that people should be more important than pieces of stone.
I took this photograph during the protests against the results of the presidential elections in Belarus in 2010. When I saw this I could not believe my eyes — a policeman who was protesting, too. I later found out that he was not working in the law enforcement at that point anymore — he just came wearing his old uniform.
The protests were brutally dispersed, and as a result about 700 hundred people were arrested over the course of 24 hours, and some of the candidates for president were imprisoned for six years for organizing riots. For now, this was the last large-scale protest in the history of Belarus.
I took this photo in a summer camp for children with severe mental disorders. It was organized for the children who attend the psychological pedagogical center Space of Communication in Moscow. Hania (Hanna) is swimming in a lake. She cannot talk, but she can dive.