Minsk Part I

A bomb went off on the Minsk metro the day before yesterday. Politics in Belarus can best be described as murky. The country has not historically had much luck. A third of the population died in WWII, Minsk, like everywhere else in the area, was flattened, then Chernobyl rendered much of its agricultural land unusable. The architects who rebuilt Minsk after the total destruction of the war must have asked themselves "what does Belarus have plenty of?" and the answer was clearly: space.

The scale of Minsk's buildings is simply mind-boggling. These buildings may seem a bit rabbit hutch-like to outsiders, but the people who live in these buildings, at least on the fourth or fifth floor upwards, have the most extraordinary views.

The result? Minsk is a city of people in flats in spectacularly huge but slightly grim buildings with breathtaking views of spectacularly huge but slightly grim buildings full of other people with spectacular views. Everyone must spend a lot of time staring back and forth at each other across the void.


Back in Bratislava

I will always associate November in Bratislava with romance. Sylwia and I originally met at Bratislava Photo Month some 8 or 9 years ago. So of course it was time to go and revisit old haunts, and what better way than to go to the portfolio review event at Photo Month! So that's what we did. This time, we kept bumping into one of our heroes, Martin Parr, first of all in a cafe, then in the street, then in our hotel (of course, it turned out he was staying there). Of course, he doesn't know us from Adam, but he must have thought that we were stalking him.

And I had the most extraordinary morale boost, when I was awarded third prize in the portfolio review event!

Suitably encouraged, we went for a stroll over the Novy Most and into Petrzalka district, which I saw on the horizon years ago and have always wanted to visit. It is a monstruous monument to socialist architecture. Vaclav Havel, who became the Czech President after the end of communism, said of Petrzalka:

"I saw the industrial complex of the Slovnaft chemical factory and the giant Petrzalka housing estate right behind it. The view was enough to make me realize that for decades our statesmen and political leaders did not look or did not want to look out of the windows of their airplanes."

So of course I took some pictures. Which I haven't had a chance to prepare, but here are some rough contact scans from my flatbed.


Levitating Joe

We paid another visit to Portobello beach to take some portraits with Joe Colligan - Joe took some photos of Sylwia and me, and we took some portraits of him. Because of a mix-up with meeting times/places we met up there a bit late, but still had time for a stroll and to take some pictures. There's something wonderfully therapeutic about wandering around the seashore taking pictures.