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Andrei Liankevich

Belarus Portfolio

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Is the story over or are we still in the middle of it somewhere? Is it the country itself? Is it Belarus that makes reality and fiction seem to be layered like transparencies? The pictures of Andrei Liankevich seem to suggest that at least. For example, when a lonely Communist marches across a foggy square. Or when a soldier poses in a comfortable armchair among his trophies: the naked antlers on the wall and the no-less trophy-like twin sons held tenderly and creepily on his lap – Nestor and Pollux? Remus and Romulus? Cain and Abel? If they are supposed to stand for a dually new beginning, this might take place once again within that historical cliché that has helped give Belarus its sense of unreality. History has certainly provided plenty of signs.

No other region in Europe suffered as much during the Second World War as Belarus: the bourgeois intelligentsia were practically wiped out, the number of war victims was the highest relative to the total population, and the infrastructure was destroyed. Later the country was the remotely controlled ally of the old Communist powers, and the same clique is still in power today. And yet the very fact that Liankevich can depict the somnambulistic conditions of his country the way he does is proof that there is a young generation of Belarusians whose creativity is in the service of change. Fantastic elements of an unattainable dreamland and a caricatural focus on pseudo-Soviet deco-propaganda à la Lukashenko provide a backdrop against which innovation has been going on for a long time.



Born in 1981, Belarusian photographer, born in Grodno and based in Minsk (Belarus). Andrei obtained his BA in Economics from Belarusian State University. In 2004-2005 he studied at the Caucasus Media Institute in Yerevan, Armenia. As a part of the programme, he spent few months living and travelling with Yazidi minority in Armenia, and his final photo project about Yazidi’s life, got award from the World Press Photo seminar. In September 2007 Andrei was invited to take part in Focus on Monferrato master class project in Tuscany (Italy). In June 2008 he participated in programme supported by French Association Pour l’Instant, shooting a photo story on “Modern family institutions”.

Andrei tought a course on Photojournalism at the European Humanity University, Belarusian University, in Vilnius (Lithuania). Since 2005 he cooperates with European Press Photo Agency (EPA) and in 2007 he joined Anzenberger agency. Andrei has worked with Nasha Niva, one of the few independent Belarusian newspapers during 2001-2008. His works are also published in such international medias as New York Times, Le Figaro, Newsweek, Die Zeit, Spiegel, GEO, GEO Lino, International Herald Tribune.

He has presented his works in more than 30 exhibitions in Europe and USA. In 2008 catalog  of Andrei’s photographs was published.  Later this year Andrei’s photos were included in “EAST” photo book and “Break Lines. Touch Points.” -photo book with photo story  “Unknown Country”, publisher: “Reporters without Borders” organization. And “This day of Change” photo book having 132 photographs of the project, published in Japan.

In 2009 Andrei won a prize at the Humanity Photo Awards 2009 with his work about

 “Pagan traditions in Belarus”, and was among finalists of  “Magnum Expression Award”.


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Andrei Liankevich


Editor’s note:

Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

29 thoughts on “andrei liankevich – belarus portfolio”

  1. Andrei,
    it is a joy to look at your images! Why only 15? I am sure there is more… A little too much of TV screens…
    The images give me a rough idea of what Belarus is like. To me it looks as if Belarus is still stuck in the Soviet era. Very dull and grey! Hm, I wonder if there is some modernity as well…
    Thank you and good luck for your future work!

  2. A couple of interesting photos, but the essay doesn’t seem coherent. Even with the artist statement, I can’t figure out what the photographer is actually trying to convey. Perhaps the essay is just too short to tell any kind of story.

  3. It’s labeled as a “portfolio” not an “essay.” Maybe that’s why it doesn’t tell a story. Looking at the statement, though, it seems like the photos were chosen first and then a statement written to cover them all.

    As a portfolio, think there are many static shots. There are several shots of people (or sculptures or buildings) lined up in rows, and there is always a distance from the subjects. I think that’s intentional, but it’s not working for me. Nice photos but lacking dimensionality. I’d like to see more variety, including some closer, more intimate shots, different perspectives, and motion. I’d lose the sculpture, too.

  4. Individually I think the pictures are great, though I don’t like the pictures of TV’s. I always like the shorter essays. I would much rather be left wanting more than get bored half way through.

  5. Some interesting pictures here but I can’t find a sense of narrative that brings them together. Yes, it looks very Soviet and, like other commentators, – the sculpture and TVs aren’t doing much for me…. Am I just becoming immune to these kind images…?

  6. Fascinating peek into a place we seldom see.

    Very tight…

    I love the sculpture shot. As grim a bunch of folks as you’re ever likely to see. How curious that this was/is held up as an ideal. I love the deliberate formality in the compositions, suggesting the formality of the society. From the depiction here, a place caught in a time warp.

    Leaves me wishing there were more. Bravo and congratulations.

  7. These pictures are nice, some more than others, but its doesn’t really speak to me as a set of images. But more importantly I find it off-base to boldly claim “No other region in Europe suffered as much during the Second World War as Belarus.” I respect the photographer’s personal perspective and understand much suffering did occur in Belarus, but discrediting the suffering of people around Europe is beyond a photographer’s personal vision.

  8. I tend to agree with some of the comments above re: it not quite holding together. Nevertheless – some terrific pictures. Even ones that flirt with cliche are somehow “just right” – the monolithic misted buildings with the gull (slide 6).

    Gordon L – totally agree with your observation. I think the answer to your curiosity is contained on the slide immediately following the sculpture (4 into 5); the same grimness on the visages, albeit older and dressed in suits!

  9. Each of the pictures could be the start of its own essay. That is making me curious for more.
    The name portfolio suggests to me it is not meant to be an essay, which is OK.
    Some of the television pictures could be left out, but in the context of Belarus it may make sense to bring context to the environment of the portfolio.

    Congrats to be published on burn!

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  12. I don’t like a communism kind of art. Because I’m from former soviet Union I see it as something not interesting. it is very usual and not knew ,doesn’t give me some new information or emotion,technically good but that is not enough for me!

  13. #1 is wonderful. Also like 13, 14, and 15. These four images work together. Should be the start of a more complete essay. I’m afraid the rest fall short in this regard, don’t seem to fit.

  14. At first and second look it seemed like a confused mix of photographs that I were struggling to link to one another, but on the third look the variety of it makes more sense to me. I love the opening two photographs, obviously very strong, and the guy filming a nazi-scene or something looks simply surreal in this context and the fact that it is followed by an overview of people sitting in something that lookes like an important and strict conferance meeting. There is a sense of humour in the way you sequence this, although the intention itself, from you, might be less humouristic.

    So the advice from me to you is to go even more crazy with sequencing. That is the biggest strength of your work, so pay attention to it and keep build on it. Fill in the gaps with crazyness.

    Oh, and the ending picture doesn’t feel like a real ending. It looks like a picture that could come in the middle of your essay.

  15. The TV works for me. It kind of implies that here, things are being done to impact your life but you have no access, save through the TV and maybe you don’t really have access there, either.

    What’s I find a bit amazing is that throughout the portfolio, there are many images of vibrant and bright color, yet, at the end, I am left feeling as though I have journeyed through a gray, black-and-white, world. This feeling is established right off in the first image – such bright color, yet so foggy and dark.

    I do the bulk of my work in hunting societies, where many people literally live by the food they kill, be it a caribou or a bowhead whale, but I, too, found the image of the father holding the twin babies beneath the rack a bit unnerving and creepy. I wondered what kind of life lies ahead for those two little ones.

    And yet, for all I know, the hunter could be a warm and compassionate father. It doesn’t look like it and I would be inclined not to think so, but he could be. However we may wish to believe otherwise, photos don’t always tell the whole story and sometimes the story they tell the strongest is misleading – at least in the narrow sense directed towards the individuals. No doubt, in a broad sense, directed toward elements of society, the story is true.

    Congratulations, Andrei Liankevich!

  16. is there any assistance given to contributors when their first language isn’t english? the accompanying text here is littered with grammar and spelling errors, and does the photographer no favours. it’s sad, because the likelihood is that Andrei is perfectly literate in his mother tongue…

  17. Frank Michael Hack

    I found this essay (portfolio) very engaging. I think there are many lessons to be learned from history and in this montage Belarus seems stuck in a particular era prior to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. I am not sure if I am getting the full story here but there is definitively a vision on Belarus that comes through which I believe is quite intentional. Also the nod to Harry Gruyaert is quite interesting and shows evidence of a photographer that is thinking laterally as well as visually. I am very intrigued by this work and look forward to more.

    Congratulations Andrei

  18. I think number 13 is an excellent photo. The subject is timeless. A boy, a boat and a body of water. I like how the color composition is divided neatly into RGB, with the R providing the highlight. I like the waviness of the entire composition and suspect that reinforces the languid nature of the scene. I, too, got a chuckle from the juxtaposition of numbers four and five. Such grim statues. Such grim people on the tv.

    But overall, I agree with those who feel it’s either not an essay or not a coherent one. It strikes me as more a collection of spot photos. I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing, but I’d like to see more with the quality of number 13. I find the photos somewhat interesting as an evocative window into a place I’ve never seen (though as someone else said, it does look mid-twentieth century east bloc-ish. Still, it is interesting that it still looks that way). But I fear that, unlike number 13, if most of the other photos were composed identically with more familiar subjects — like if Obama were on the tv, or the U.S. Congress were in session, or older Americans were sitting in metal chairs at a patriotic event, or a hometown American soldier were posing under a pair of antlers with his kids — I wouldn’t find them quite so interesting, unless maybe as local news. The compositions, for the most part, are not interesting in themselves. They require an exotic subject.

    So that is my humble advice to the photographer. Study what makes #13 so great and look to compose more along those lines.

  19. Very nice series.
    A reportage with a deep meaning.
    At first sight it seems a simple series but if you read them carefully you will be able to pick a wide number of tones. My compliment! GB

  20. Thank you , Friends for critics and support.
    I completely agree, that is not classical story with opening and ending. it’s more an essay for me. I use photos in “Belarus Portfolio” as keys giving directions to understand different Belarus sides. I use photos , which are parts of stories- like president portrait from TV, because photographers till last time can’t photograph president in Belarus, or last photo- showing the “Great” border wall divides Belarus with European Union …
    I am really sure, that every photographer is strongly subjective in presenting topics – that is why i decided to make “Portfolio” with “keys” and my ideas, which can be ways to understand the country i am living in.

    Thank you for advices.

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  22. Andrei, I’m very glad to see your work here!
    I can only guess how difficult is to photograph a portrait of a country you live in. For me, you do a great work! It gives a strong feeling of atmosphere… and different moods and aspects. After watching this portfolio I feel like I’ve already been to Belarus… and the same time I became even more willing to visit it physically!
    Good luck!

  23. I found the single images beautiful and I can see that there is somehow a common thread that group these photos into one’s perspective. Still I would concentrate with one kind of environment (cities or rural…) or group of people (teenagers or workers….) so that not only you’d offer your perspective but also a statement.
    Other than that, I really like most of them.

  24. Andrei,

    Congratulations on your publication on BURN. I agree with many who have commented already. Some excellent singles here but maybe not enough cohesion perhaps for an overal essay…but… I very much your first picture…a real classic..love it… I also very much like nb 9… nb 12 also… these may be stereotypes of what an outsider would imagine when thinking about an “old style” communist country but these are so well captured… Given you seem to be living in the counry, you have plenty of time and opportunities to carry with your work….

    Good luck with it.


  25. Andrei, thank you for taking me to a land I will likely never see on my own. Like Reimar, I ask why only 15? I wanted more. You are in a position to delve deeply into this subject and I hope you are planning to do so. Just to echo others’ comments, the TV pics don’t add a lot. Keep it live! I look forward to seeing more from you here on Burn.


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