Tatsiana Tkachova: If I stop loving the process, stop loving the way the cherries bloom, then it's time to die

02.03.2020 Source: Volha Khvoin for BAJ.BY

Tatsiana Tkachova, World Press Photo nominee in the "portrait" category shares emotions with BAJ.BY, and tells what she finds really important and how to learn photography.

Tatsiana Tkachova: self-portrait

— How did you find out about your nomination for the World Press Photo?

— I was watching "Parasite" in a movie theater. I wanted to see the time and saw the letter. I just couldn't believe it, I was very surprised, I was really shocked.

I guess this is why they inform us two weeks before the public announcement, to acknowledge and embrace it. Last year, I submitted the same project — the first story of "Between Right and Shame" was published in 2019, so I could apply this year, too.

It's great that a topic that I care about so much will be raised at such level.

Tatsiana Tkachova is among nominees for World Press Photo's Portraits

— Why this topic?

— Because I don't shoot what is not interesting for me. I wrote in the statement for the project: I found out that my mother had had an abortion after Chernobyl disaster, as she was afraid of the consequences.  When I watched the Chernobyl HBO series, I took it as a personal story.  I have a lot of questions: for example, why is the word "abortion" pronounced in a whisper? You can decide who will be born and who will not, and you are a hostage in this system... there are many layers, which seem interesting to me.

There are situations when no one can judge, or take sides. This is life. No one is entitled to judge others. I tell it in a simple visual language. But it works.

— It may sound a little insensitive, but is it fair that you are the first from Belarus to receive such a high award, after being a photo-journalist for only six years? After all, other photographers submitted their works to World Press Photo, too.

-- It's complicated. No awards say that you are better than someone else, absolutely. This does not mean that my works are better than the works of other photographers. It so happened. I believe "fair" (or unfair) is not the right word.

— Have you ever dreamt of getting such an acknowledgement?

— If you do something that you love madly, you have a dream to be heard, to do something significant, a dream for this process to never end. I don't want it to stop, I enjoy it too much. I'd be a hypocrite to say I didn't care about the award. No, it's fantastic! But I've come to realize that it's not the award that matters. It's important what I do, what I shoot, what I want to do later, not the "goodies" themselves. If you get only awards on your mind, what will happen next, after the next prize?

If I stop loving the process, stop loving the way cherries bloom, then it's time to die

Now I want to finish the story I started. It's important to me. This is a story about the women of my family. I want it to become more than just my story, I want it to appeal to other people.

The contest is over, that's it.

In general, what is really important, is good health of people you love. If I had to pay with a leg for the victory, I would prefer to keep both legs. Just don't put it in the lead to your text, please!

Photo from the project "Between Right and Shame". Photo: Tatsiana Tkachova

— You say that you submitted this same project earlier, but it was not nominated. Losses demotivate. What do you advise others?

— Well, if you lose, then what? I keep working.  Any sensible person understands that any competition is 50-50. So I am cool with it.

I really want to thank the people who helped me in my work as a photographer. BAJ courses give the professional skills to people who, for example, can't study photography abroad. Also, "Fotografika", Katya Bahacheuskaya, Summer school with Andrey Polikanov, Cech workshops organized by Yulia Darashkevich. All conversations with my friends around the topic, when I showed them my work — this is very important and valuable for me. My first photos on Takiye Dela website. I am sure, I wouldn't be in photography without these people.

And my mother, of course: she supports me and believes in me, no matter what happens.

Photo from the project "Between Right and Shame". Photo: Tatsiana Tkachova

— Will you raise your rates?

— It is very difficult to talk about rates and Belarusian media. But I believe that any work should be paid well,  so that people do not leave the country, but stay here, to develop journalism, photojournalism, and everything that we mean by culture. They need to have afford life and work here.


Tatsiana Tkachova is a documentary photographer, born  in the Mahiliou region. She is the winner of the Vilnius Photo Circle and  "A Dot on the Map" contests. She took part in group exhibitions and published her works in  .  Imena, Takiye Dela,  Bird in Flight, and The Guardian.  Currently, she is a photographer for the Belarusian-language newspaper Zvyazda.

Tatsiana Tkachova's website: tkachova.com