New East Digital Archive

Chance encounters: 7 street photographers share the stories behind their strangest shots

Get inspired by the New East talent from the fourth edition of Eastreet, a street photography event in Lublin, Poland

18 October 2017

The joy of being a street photographer is that you can shoot absolutely anywhere; yet striking street photographs are often those that elevate the most ordinary of places into something profound. Lublin-based initiative Eastreet brings together remarkable street photography from across eastern Europe, selected by a group of curators and presented in the form of a bi-annual exhibition and publication. It was first launched in 2013 by Polish documentary photographer Tomasz Kulbowski to show the diversity and complexity of the region, which goes beyond stereotypes, borders and differences. In time for the launch of the fourth edition on 20 October, we asked our pick of participating photographers to tell us something we would never have known about their unusual images — hopefully, to inspire you to venture out onto the streets with your camera.

Boris Nemeth

“The photo, taken in Levice in Western Slokavia, belongs to my project entitled Homeland that explores the nationalism within ourselves. The photographs I chose for this series are all metaphors for fear, hopelessness, dysfunction, anger, malfunction, and patriotism. It’s hard to talk about a single photo because they should work as a whole, but I think it suggests the loss of man in the system; the crisis of the individual and his identity.”

Grégory Michenaud

“This photo was taken in Leżajsk in south east Poland, which is an important Jewish pilgrimage spot. Each year a couple of thousand Hasidic Jews, mainly from USA and Israel, descend on the town to visit the tomb of rabbi Elimelech Weisblum, one of the founders of the Hasidic movement, on the anniversary of his death. On this date, it is thought that rabbi Elimelech Weisblum comes back to his grave to answer the prayers left on his tombstone.The barrack in the photo was installed on a parking lot facing the cemetery. It was made especially for Kohen (Hebrew word for priest) who are not permitted to enter cemeteries because they can not have “contact” with death. Thanks to this barrack they can pray while seeing the grave of rabbi Elimelech in a warm and dry place.

This photo is part of an ongoing project I am working on about Jewish identity, revolving around an old jewish tradition called Yibbum. It follows the story of a grandson of a ‘Yibbum child’ — this means a child of levirate marriage — in search of his identity. It touches on religion, family values, history and a sense of attachment to the land, all aspects that help to define what it means to be Jewish.”

Yulia Chervinska

“This photo was taken inside the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kiev. I like the fact in this one composition everything seems to subtly fall into place — both the tone and the lines. There is something voyeuristic about the photo, as if each exhibit in museum has a secret life, and that they long for privacy and solitude, not anything otherwise. The reality is probably not so romantic a story. It’s most likely the sculpture was being moved to storage, and left temporarily in one of the corridors of the museum.”

Ilya Shtutsa

“This was taken in one of the St Petersburg’s most visited places — Dvortsovaya Ploshchad, or Palace Square as it is known in English. It’s a very touristic landmark, everyone who comes to St Petersburg has to visit it at least once, but also it’s a place where a lot of different activities take place. Once a year the government puts on big Victory Day military parade here. Rehearsals for the parade begin a couple of weeks before the celebration, and many people prefer to watch the rehearsals at Palace Square to avoid the crowds on the day.

I remember I’d spent the day in the Hermitage museum which is situated in the Winter Palace, the green facade of which you can see in the photo. On my way out, I noticed military troops marching across the square and passers-by standing and watching them and I had a feeling of a possibility, so I decided to stay and observe a bit longer. Soon I noticed the red-haired girl, and when I started to frame the picture, one of soldiers, who was standing aside from others, happened to look in the right direction. It was, I think, pure chance — as street photographers, it’s all that we are looking for when we peruse the streets.”

Jacek Łagowski

“I took this picture before the announcement of receipt lottery results in Warsaw. It looked like it is going to be the usual story: happy winners beaming whilst being handed the car keys. But when I arrived there, just before the ceremony, I saw only the car covered with red cloth standing against the monochromatic wall on the empty yard of the Ministry of Finance — it was a really surreal sight.”

Tymon Markowski

“This photo was taken as a children’s dance contest entitled ‘Dancing Mirages’ in Bydgoszcz, Poland. It’s a very familair story, at least in Poland. The woman you see in the photo, Celina Pacanowska, was giving a few tips to the children from ‘Krasnale’ team before the show. I was trying to focus on the middle of the picture. At first glance I didn’t realised that every girl have a different face expression. The photo was picked up by the National Geographic and has won several contests.”

Nik Brezginov

“I took the photo at Barrikadnaya metro station in Moscow. When the train arrived on the platform I saw a amusing character, who aimed his bow in the direction of a couple locked in an embrace behind me, and shouted ‘Puff!’ For me the beauty of the photo was that it was captured in one shot. I had enough time to aim and take the shot before doors closed and the train vanished from view.”

Interviews: Liza Premiyak

Catch Eastreet 4: Photography of Eastern Europe on display from 20 October until 3 December 2017 at the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures, Lublin.
Alongside the exhibition, Eastreet have organised a special programme of events scheduled for the opening weekend. You can find more information here.