Photography is essentially a technology of fixing the past. Everything that is photographed will soon change, only the snapshot will save the memory of the moment when the camera button was pressed. With the help of photography, it is easy to tell about your vacation, your birthday or corporate party. But it is difficult to make a photo story of how a new country was born in the centre of Europe. For this, the correct frame composition is not enough — one needs the ability to soberly assess the scale of events, to feel and understand time.
This book called Zmena (Change) is based on photos taken by Siarhei Brushko between 1988 and 1994: from the heyday of glasnost in the USSR to the first presidential election in Belarus. This was a turbulent and difficult time, when a year of life gave five years of experience, when circumstances forced us to commit acts that we would hardly dare do now. It were those events that became the prologue to the current Belarusian statehood. It would be wrong to forget how Belarus looked, the way people lived and what everyday problems they faced in those days.
Zmena is probably the best word in the Belarusian language to describe the historical segment of the 1980s-early 1990s, as it combines the meanings of 'change', 'transformation' and 'work shift'. Photographing the formation of Belarus as an independent country, Siarhei Brushko realized the importance of the events. He was able to analyse the setting, and he knew from the very start what he was going to express with his works. Perhaps that is why he was not the swiftest photographer when shooting reports, but he occupied unconventional camera angles, which helped to convey the aftertaste of those events. In 1988, shortly after joining the Čyrvonaja Zmiena newspaper, the Soviet Union announced a policy of openness (glasnost), which made it possible to photograph in the streets. The person with a camera still caused distrust, although a pass with the word 'press' could save the film from being spoilt by police officers and the photographer from charges of trying to undermine the socialist system. It was this slight relief arriving with the wave of Gorbachev's perestroika that gave Brushko the opportunity to fix how one system fell into decay and a completely new system appeared in its place. The main hero of my father's works was an ordinary person at a turning point in history. Through this person, as if through a mediator, Brushko talks about the difficulties: the growing economic crisis, the destruction of the state system, and the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. They say photojournalism cannot be unbiased. It may be true. But looking at my father's photos, one can feel their inner strength and non-indifference to the people. And this is probably much more important than the impartiality of the image.
To me, Siarhey Brushko will always be my father. Despite my personal attitude, I understand the significance of his works. Father's creativity is a symbiosis of art and history, which left a legacy: the portrait of an emerging country. And sometimes we should look back and examine it in order to understand how we have changed and how mature we are.
Zmicer Brushko, photographer, Siarhei Brushko's son