I have just returned from Braslavschina – the region around the town of Braslav and as I mentioned in my last post, all of my expectations have been surpassed. There are plenty of old, traditional villages, wonderful, photogenic people and there are over 400 lakes – almost all of them ridiculously picturesque.
Perhaps it’s some sub-conscious thing about this region being a part of my “motherland”, but Braslavschina has quickly become one of my favorite places in the world. All I need to be happy is – something to photograph, some place to swim and some nice people to chat to. I can find all of that here, plus the kind of nature, which I only thought existed in fairy tales.
Ok, so I’ve fallen in love with this place, I really mean it. I’ve even enquired about prices of land and simple houses here and I have found out that they are ridiculously cheap, at least by Western standards. If I find something suitable, I’ll soon have my own tiny piece of paradise, perhaps even one right on a lake.
Anyway, enough dreaming. Here’s a brief look at what I’ve seen so far. I’m in Minsk for a few days to sort out some paperwork on my newly bought ‘84 Volskwagen Golf II. It ain’t pretty, but it’s cheap, it’ll take me where I want and it’s mine. I’ll be coming back to Braslavschina as soon as I can. I’ve only scratched the surface, as far as photography goes.
Above and below are images of kind elderly ladies from two different villages with the same story. In the really traditional villages there isn’t much youth these days and the old are the living, walking, breathing embodiment of the incredible history of this area.
A prayer inside a church of the “Old Russian Orthodox” faith. It’s very similar to the “standard” Russian Orthodox religion, but all the prayer’s are written in ancient Russian and read accordingly. Only two people in this village can read them – this “Father” is one of them. The “Old Russian Orthodox” faith is almost extinct in Belarus. The three ladies in the background are basically the only attendees.
Grandpa Alexei was very shy about being photographed. When it comes to photos initial shyness is a common reaction amongst most of the older people. They’ll usually say something along these lines – “Why would you want to photograph me? I’m not shaven” or “I haven’t even got my teeth”. To me however these faces are amazing, they say so much without the need for words. After a short chat and me explaining what I do everyone usually agrees to have their picture taken.
The modern way of preparing firewood – with a chainsaw. The man – Vasily is one the few younger men choosing to live his life in the countryside. He does however work outside of his village, on construction sites in cities as large and as far as Moscow.
Vova is another rare find, he is the only young man in his village. The rest have moved out and now live and work in Belarus’ larger cities. Photographically speaking this is the sort of portrait I am enjoying shooting more and more these days – a shot where the person is surrounded by objects that tell you something about his her life/culture.
Ok, that’s all for now. Needless to say, I can’t wait to go back and shoot some more stuff. I have also filmed some interviews and some scenes that are best communicated through “moving pictures”, but unfortunately my ancient laptop isn’t powerful enough to edit HD video. Well, I guess that’ll all have to wait.