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Monday, 29 July 2013

Rafal Milach's Black Sea of Concrete

Image from Black Sea of Concrete © Rafal Milach / Institute

Institute photographer Rafal Milach's award-winning self-published book Black Sea of Concrete documents life along the Black Sea coast in the Ukraine. He talks to Gemma Padley about how the project came about and the story behind the monograph

Author: Gemma Padley

29 Jul 2013Tags:Books

"It all started in late 2008, early 2009 when together with fellow members of photography collective Sputnik Photos we began a project about the Ukraine," says Rafal Milach, who lives in Poland. "It was an exciting time to be there - almost five years after the Orange Revolution and just before the presidential elections when Viktor Yanukovych [who would become the Ukrainian president] decided on Ukraine's turn towards Russia. At the time it was not yet clear in which direction Ukraine was heading. You could feel the tension in the air. That's probably why the pictures are soaked with post-Soviet nostalgia."

Initially planning to travel along the Ukrainian Black Sea coast, it was only upon arrival that the true scale of the project dawned on him. "When I got there I realised it was going to be more than just a road trip," he recounts. "I was overwhelmed by cracked and rusted pieces of omnipresent concrete and post-Soviet architecture that clashed with an amazing Black Sea landscape. I started to talk to people and realised they were stuck between the Soviet past and an insecure future. At some point it became clear to me that this project had to be about this post-Soviet nostalgia."

Milach spent just two weeks shooting the project but editing the images, he says, took longer. "It was probably the most intense project I've made in such a short time. The editing process took a few months as I did three different edits: a short editorial story, a book and a multimedia [piece.] Sequencing and editing is hard but as far as the creative process goes it's always exciting. When the first edit for the book was complete I made a book dummy and then took a two-year break," he adds. "I started the editing process again a few months before the book was finally published this year [2013.]"

The Black Sea of Concrete dummy was awarded the $25,000 Grand Prize for Best Self-Published Photography book in the PhotographyBookNow contest in 2009. "After the dummy was awarded the Prize I thought it was almost ready to be published but it turned out I had to wait almost four years to make it happen," says Milach. "In the meantime two other monographs were published - 7 Rooms in 2011 with publisher Kehrer Verlag and In the Car with R published by Czytelnia Sztuki Gallery in 2012. With money from the sales of these books I managed to gather enough funds to think about publishing Black Sea of Concrete. I decided to experiment and self-publish this third book," he adds. "I wanted to end up with an exclusive object dedicated to a small but sophisticated audience, which is why I decided to do a collector's edition. I worked with designer Ania Nalecka of Tapir Book Design who designed my other books. The process is definitely teamwork. I'm happy I waited for so long to publish the book because I gained experience. Each book is a publishing experiment to me."

For more information or to buy a copy of the book visit
Image from Black Sea of Concrete © Rafal Milach / Institute

Image from Black Sea of Concrete © Rafal Milach / Institute