In Russian, a language in which there is a separate word for everything, the word “country” means both the territory and the government.
Rafal Milach has spent years and most of his income figuring out why he is drawn to certain geographical territories. Is it a search for a sense of belonging? Most photographers never come to understand a place they are drawn to. But they must love it and all that comes with it: its people, food, drunkenness, taxis, music, and landscape.
Milach has been haunted by Russia, and by seven people in particular. He spent six years with those people in three cities: Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Krasnoyarsk. As thirty-somethings, they are intermediates between the ineradicable Soviet mentality and the increasingly anxious Russian mind of today. In Russian, a language in which there is a separate word for everything, the word ‘country’ means both the territory and the government.
Milach’s search is a fascinating and subtle journey into a loss of direction, into a sad and beautiful connection with Russia.
Text by Liza Faktor
Rafal Milach is a documentary photographer based in Warsaw, Poland. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Poland, and the Institute for Creative Photography (ITF) in Opava, Czech Republic. For more than ten years he has been working on transition issues in Russian-speaking countries and the CEE region. This work resulted in the book 7 Rooms (Kehrer Verlag, 2011) and such essays as “The Grey” (2002), “Wunderland” (2006), “Disappearing Circus” (2008), and “Black Sea of Concrete” (2009). Rafal’s photos were exhibited at MOCA Shanghai and are the part of the collection of the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan. They have been also presented at PHotoEspaña, Look3, and Rencontres Photographiques d’Arles. In 2007, Rafal took part in the Joop Swart Masterclass run by World Press Photo. In the next three years, he received stipends from the Polish Ministry of Culture, the European Cultural Foundation, and the Visegrad Fund. His pictures have been honored with World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, Photography Book Now, and New York Photo Festival awards.
In 2006, together with ten other Central Eastern European photographers, Rafal created a photo collective, Sputnik Photos, to document, promote, and spread knowledge on transition issues in CEE countries. For the past three years, Rafal has run a documentary workshop at the Academy of Photography in Warsaw. He was also the curator of such book projects as Rough Cut (2011), 25/25, and Don’t Mess with Texas (2011) within Photomonth in Krakow. Rafal is a guest lecturer at the ITF in Opava.