“My photographs in Invisible People of Belarus focus on residents who are mobile, communicative, and who I could form a sociality with. These form a story of those people as human beings; as people who suffer and struggle against injustice in their everyday lives; and as people who look after each other; build long lasting friendships; and fall in love even in an environment that does not seem hospitable to that feeling. Resilience is important. And so are the personal relationships and characters of the people living in internats. Internats flatten various different disabilities into a catch-all concept of abnormality and then mandate that this abnormality be confined in an institution. Yet within those institutions there exists a plurality of relationships and different ways of living as varied as in the society outside their walls. Perhaps more varied. I tried to collaborate with my subjects to make them as comfortable as possible and to give them a sense of ownership over how they were being photographed. I focused on their creative endeavour; their practices of making art and making self within an institution whose ethos often denies the right to self-determination. I have accompanied my images with as much and as varied contextual information as possible so that the reader can understand the historical and familial circumstances, both of subjects and photographer, that have led up to the moment of taking the picture. I hope that this information will render the images dialogic: not a frozen depiction of Otherness, but a gentle animation of character emplaced within a milieu rather than the rigid frame of the picture.

If you feel an affectionate turning towards these people, then I have succeeded.”

Invisible People of Belarus by Jadwiga Brontē (4/4)

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