|© Sputnik Photos, Agnieszka Rayss – U|
For almost ten years, the photo collective Sputnik has focused on Post-Soviet countries, in search of personal stories instead of ‘hot news issues’. The nine photographers of the collective include winners of many awards, such as World Press Photos and Pictures of the Year. Founding member Rafał Milach, along with his partner Ania Nałęcka, who designs all of Sputnik’s books, were in Utrecht for the opening of Sputnik’s exhibition at Fotodok, the first exhibition dedicated entirely to the collective. They sat down with GUP to talk about Sputnik’s start, photo books as a slow medium and how they learned to work together as a couple.
Sputnik unofficially started in 2004 when Polish photographer Rafał Milach (b. 1978) went to a workshop in France, where he met other photographers from Eastern and Central Europe. “Funnily enough, we met in France for the first time. Most of us were from Warsaw, but we didn’t even know each other,” Rafał says while taking a break from building up his exhibition at Fotodok. Sitting in the brightly lit office, he sometimes gets up and runs over to take a book from the shelves, to illustrate what he’s talking about. The participants from that workshop in 2004 got along better than any of them could’ve expected, he says. “It was mostly the energy that we felt," Rafał explains. "During the workshop, we discussed methods and edits. And we hung out. We didn’t even really work together that first time, but it was an intense and important time for all of us. During one of those late night dinners, while freely discussing ideas, it turned out that everybody was passionate about working together. Someone proposed the name Sputnik. That name is related with transmission and we wanted the collective to be our personal broadcast, filling the gaps that mainstream media forget about. Our main focus would be on Post-Soviet countries, where we all come from. Even though we didn’t know each other yet, we felt this energy between us. Sometimes you meet people and you know that you could work with them. So we decided to give it a try.