What inspired you to start working on the project?
Last year, large numbers of Ukrainian citizens appeared unexpectedly in Kraków. You can hear the language of our south-eastern neighbours on trams, in stores and in restaurants. However, when no words are spoken, you won’t be able to tell who is standing next to you at a bus stop or in a queue. At times, only certain subtleties will let a careful observer notice the nationality.
The idea of the series was born from the above observation, combined with my growing interest in portraiture, especially that which requires the viewer to be more attentive.
How did your work progress before you made the final version of your project?
I photographed 52 people while working on the series. This required good organisation, regularity, and a budget. I wouldn’t have made it without Mykhailo, who was my translator and helped me to reach the people themselves.
What is the central message you wish to communicate?
My key idea is illustrated well by the article Between Words and the Slav People by Juliusz Ćwieluch (Polityka, 03/02/2016):
‘A Pole and a Ukrainian are 99% the same. The 1% is your racism. There is no racism on our part whatsoever,’ she tries to convince me, and smoothly goes on to talk about her own kind: ‘I can recognise them in the underground at a glance. Gold teeth, gold earrings. I stay away from them. They are rough country bumpkins. What would we talk about?’ she asks. For her, this is not racist at all, but a home truth, with the ultimate truth as follows: ‘You and us are alike. That is why people in Poland have not even noticed that so many Ukrainians have arrived.’
What photographic language do you use in your pictures and why?
Obviously, the aesthetics correspond to passport photos. This allows the viewer and the person portrayed to meet face to face for a longer time. It also re ects my attempt to present those photographed in an objective way, which echoes my fascination with works by Rineke Dijkstra and Thomas Ruth.