Ksusha looks through the cockpit of a Soviet era helicopter at an open air museum in Minsk, Belarus, 28 March, 2014. Misha Vallejo/The Stand

Minsk Love

Somali Refugee - Italy

Misha Vallejo

Minsk, Belarus. 2015

This series, shot during Easter of 2014, tells the story of the everyday life of a young Belorussian couple: Ksusha and Egor. They live in Minsk in a cramped flat shared with Ksusha’s mother, Olga, and sister, Jenia. Their life does not have many highs or lows, instead, it is a consistent routine marked by a difficult financial situation and their young love and commitment to each other, within the context of their country’s economic and political situation.

They were generous enough to share their lives with me, and I experienced their routines first hand; their working weekdays and their evenings at home. Some days, especially weekends, they go out to friends’ houses, but not to cafes, restaurants or bars because they cannot afford it.

This is a silent story of the themes I am interested in: The lost person and the lost place. It is an inside portrayal which enables me to express my own opinions through the people who allowed me into their lives. It is also a microcosm of the economic and political condition of the country, where the financial situation for common people is tight, but the country’s leader continues to enjoy wide support and respect from the population.

This series is our shared diary from the short time we spent together in Belarus.

Q&A with Misha Vallejo

What struck me was that you spent two weeks with this couple in Minsk. Is it difficult to spend that much time with people on such an intimate level and how did they react to the presence of the camera?
Yes, it is very difficult, especially if you don´t know them beforehand. We were introduced to each other and on the same day I moved in with them and stayed their room. At the beginning it was a bit uncomfortable for us all, but they soon got used to the presence of the camera. It took a bit of time and a lot of conversations. I believe that at the end they liked to be photographed and they liked my interest in their life. When we said goodbye they said they are gonna miss being photographed so much!

How did you find this couple? And what interested you in photographing them
A very good friend of mine introduced me to them. Ksusha is my friend´s sister.

I got very interested in their life after I saw them the first time. It was obvious that they loved each other a lot and I thought that they just started dating a couple of weeks ago. Imagine my surprise when they told me they were dating 10 years already! That´s when I got really interested in their life.

Have you stayed in touch with them and how are they doing now?
Yes, after two weeks living together we became friends. I know they had some sort of love ceremony but are not married (yet). They still live together in the same flat in Minsk. Their life hasn’t changed much since I visited them.

There is something inherently satisfying in documenting daily life in a creative way. How do you feel about photographing the ordinary?
I really love documenting everyday life and I feel it is one of the post important themes to be documented. It will serve as a record of our lives for generations to come. I don’t think some themes are more photogenic than others, and I don’t think spectacular events should monopolise our attention as storytellers. There is a certain magic in the ordinary, we just have to look and it will appear.