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“It is not easy to take a picture of a person. For me it is an exciting and unpredictable undertaking for which I am rarely 100% prepared. The process of photographing another person is a constant struggle against our own complexes, fears, doubts and uncertainties.”

Masha Svyatogor is a Belarusian photographer living in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. The photographer borrowed the title for her ongoing project from a Polish theatre director and artist, Tadeusz Kantor. He calls his workshop “Mój biedny pokoik wyobra?ni”, which inspired his most recent theatrical production, and roughly translates as My Poor Little Room of Imagination. “I fell in love with the name immediately” says Masha, “This project is about a very personal territory, an intimate place where a story about life is unfolding. A small room, as opposed to the ‘big story’ and other ‘big’ endeavors, becomes the place where a small defenseless man can find sanctuary”.

This series gradually took shape as Masha set herself small tasks, photographing people who crossed her path in everyday life; these were people she knew or people she saw for the first time on social networks. She photographed individuals who were willing to connect with her, people whose curiosity paralleled her own, those who overcame embarrassment and the fear of being a “guinea pig” and mastered up the courage to appear alone in front of the camera. In the photographer’s own words: “My photographs depict people who are around my age or younger. I just photographed those who I could relate to in terms of age, lifestyle, mood and spirit. I can say for sure that my project is not just about the life of the youth within my own country”.

The words that accompany My Poor Little Room of Imagination express the photographer’s own feelings and the questions which often cross her mind about the world she experiences through her senses: “I write about the things I do not like: social maladjustment, confusion, dissatisfaction with life, and questions to which I cannot always find answers: Where am I? What am I doing? What for?” Masha would like the accompanying images to have an energy which evokes a sense of “cool fingers of the moon caressing the soul”, they need to be intimate, personal, secret and innermost, for these are the things which interest her the most. “As a person, I am for the most part focused on the inner world, and I’m afraid to step out of my comfort zone” she confesses, “I concentrate my attention on the inner flow of life and appeal to the hidden, invisible and deep-seated things which sometimes manifest themselves through the external”.

What constitutes the project to date has been shot with an analogue camera and manual settings, which naturally takes time and makes it more difficult to capture a fast shot. With a focus on human emotion, Masha pays special attention to the face and often asks her subjects to freeze like a sculpture in moments she wishes to record. Due to limited photographic equipment, Masha spends a great deal of time searching for interesting angles and perspectives.

It is not easy to photograph another person, as Masha has realized during the creation of this work in progress, “it is the fear of making a mistake, steering away from the truth and getting lost. You often do not know how to approach a person, how to do it delicately”. Honesty and a readiness to be exposed in one’s most vulnerable state is the responsibility of the subject, though it is up to the photographer to gain the mutual trust so that this might happen. The words of Henry Miller resonate with Masha: “I love everything that flows, everything that has time in it and becoming”. She will continue working on My Poor Little Room of Imagination, for we and the world around us are constantly evolving.

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All images © Masha Svyatogor

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