Fine Art Photography Daily

Rafal Milach: Photograpy Book Now Winner

I finally found some time to look at the 2009 Photography Book Now winning publication, Black Sea of Concrete, by Polish photographer, Rafal Milach. Rafal won $25,000 for his grand prize winning submission about the Black Sea. He works as an editorial photographer and is the co-founder of SPUTNIK, the collective of photographers from Central-Eastern European region, but he continues to work on fine art projects and essays. An interview with Rafal is available on the Blurb site.

Black Sea of Concrete is a part of group project shot by eight photographers from the Sputnik Photos collective. We were assigned by a Belgium-based NGO, Altemus, to photograph contemporary Ukraine. In December 2008 I started my trip at the Russian–Ukrainian border and the Ukrainian Black Sea coast. The beauty of the landscape side-by-side with overwhelming and omnipresent Soviet architecture struck me. I wanted to shoot the story in wintertime when the tourists are gone and the landscapes are raw and empty.

Five years have passed since the “Orange Revolution” — when Ukraine gained independence from Russian influence — and I found people have already lost the hope for change. The coast showed me how strongly Ukraine is attached to its Soviet past.

The first thing you notice by the sea is the concrete. Kilometers of grey blocks sometimes painted with blue and yellow, the national colors of Ukraine. You can feel the soviet past at once. It looks surreal and it doesn’t match the beautiful landscape that surrounds you. Industrial zones and the iron waste by the sea don’t remind harmonic idyll between nature and man. People have changed the landscape in a very brutal way here. But the sea fights back for its natural shape and territory. Local people seem to respect the power of the sea. Nevertheless at he same time they thoughtlessly devastate it. This wired symbiosis makes this piece of land fascinating. I went to the Ukrainian Black Sea coast to explore this mutual influence and relation between the man and sea. Ukraine is the country in transition and for the last few years has been looking for its new identity. In my opinion so has the Black Sea coast.

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