Maxim Sarychau

PRAFOTA 2020 Documentary Photography Short-list
In Soviet times, mosaics were the facade of the Communist ideology. They glorified leaders and state symbols — and praised working men and women looking to the bright future. They displayed the achievements of Soviet science and sports in the bright colours of social realism. Their traces remained in all the former Soviet republics — on the walls of hospitals, schools, buildings of state agencies and train stations. Having lost their grandeur and their original significance, they are still part of the post-Soviet world’s cultural leitmotif. The photo project focuses on the remains of mosaics at bus stops in Ukraine’s provincial areas. It does not aim to analyse aspects such as monumentality or the ideological background — its sphere of research is 'here and now'. Mosaics are disappearing — they tend to peel off and fade away with time, their condition is deteriorating — in some countries, due to lack of attention from the authorities and, in other — due to the so-called "decommunisation" policy, which aims to erase traces of Communism from cities and villages. It is not a coincidence that the mosaics the author has chosen depict animals and birds. This symbolises a certain degree of freedom Soviet artists enjoyed while decorating bus stops: here, far from the capitals, there was no Lenin, there were no hammers or sickles. The world of nature, with a fairy tale-like veil all over it, is presented in minimalist paintings, whose authors are not intent on creating a new type of human being. Their only visible goal is to decorate the landscape. In Sarychau’sphotographs, the past shines through the present. People at cold stops stand, as if petrified, waiting for the bus and anticipating the future itself. Yet, what will this future be like? Will there be room for utopias in it? Will Ukraine succeed in improving the living standards of its citizens amid political transformations and Russia’s military aggression? What will happen to the cultural heritage of the past? Will it be rethought or destroyed? Sarychau's photographs register the spirit of the era, which is transitioning from the present to the past. They are part of the fabric of a particular moment in contemporary history. This moment combines stagnation and progress, which interact and pave the way for new kinds of meaning. This moment mirrors the processes that Ukraine is in the midst of today. (Text: Inga Pylypchuk)
Short-list 2020: