The Waiting Room is the working title for my long-term photo series from Belarus. I’ve been shooting there since 2000, first driven by simple curiosity about this place supposedly stuck in a Soviet time-warp. As I spent more time and tried to really understand the situation on a more nuanced level, I realized that an underlying question was one of identity. Namely, how Belarus’ historically weak sense of national identity is a big part of what put them on a whole different evolutionary track than their geographical neighbors. If they face east there’s chaotic Russia, to the west is the expanding EU. Neither model feels like a good fit to many average Belarusians. Some chafe under the current political situation, but others fear change and are to some degree compliant with the status quo.
But the frequently-applied ‘frozen in time’ label is not quite fair. All places change, just in their own way and at their own speed. Belarus is no exception. I was there twice in 2009, and had a sense that Belarus is somehow finding itself, on its own terms, for better and worse. It isn’t becoming an appendage of Russia anymore than an outpost of Europe. It is becoming Belarus.
I hope this series gives a feeling of a people struggling to emerge, but not quite getting there. Not just yet anyway. The Belarusian people seem to understand that change will come when and how it will come. The fog of history hasn’t yet dissipated. In the meantime, they wait, and live.