Anna Jermolaewa & Scott Ewans
> Galeria Arsenal / Białystok / Poland
*1970/1979, live and work in Vienna
The photographs of Białowieża Forest, the oldest forest in Europe, that made up our project.
The photographs are of old oak trees and pines that are some of the oldest trees in the forest and in Europe as well. Unfortunately, the forest is under attack (on both sides of the border) as lumber mills and tourism have led to deforestation.
These photographs were taken using analogue film, a material that, similar to the forest, is dying out. The photographs were taken up close, at the base of the tree, showing that even with a wide-angle lens it is difficult to capture these subjects: they are big, beautiful, and ancient.
We were not allowed to enter the old forest on the Polish side without a guide, which made it a bit touristic although the guide tried her best to provide us with a lot of information. On the Belarussian side of the forest, we were very curious to visit the dacha in the woods where the Belovezha Accords were signed, resulting in the break up of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, this we could not visit as it now serves as the Belarussian president's dacha.
It was difficult, nearly impossible, to suss out any political history of the forest as it seems essentially erased, the only traces a half-dozen makeshift grave markers in the old forest, marking the graves of fallen Polish partisans, and the forest border crossing between the two nations holding kilometres of barbed wire fence and many armed guards.
We decided to focus on these old trees, oaks and pines, that have witnessed centuries of Europe's political turmoil.
This is a photo diary we took while on various walks through Białystok or while visiting different flea markets throughout the city. It also contains some photos from our trip to Białowieża Forest, on both the Polish side and Belarussian side. In the Belarussian portion of Białowieża, they have built a tacky tourist trap, "Father Frost's Estate", the forest cleared for a cantina, some false Saint Nick residences, and a series of strange sculptures depicting various characters from fairy tales.
We appreciate the opportunity we had to attend the residency at Galeria Arsenał. They have a fantastic, friendly staff who made us feel very comfortable.