Various Artists, Strike Newspaper #7

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2022 by the Archive of Public Protests (here). Soft cover, 32 pages, with 24 color photos. Includes photographs by Michał Adamski, Karolina Gembara, Miśka Kuczyńska, Adam Lach, Alicja Lesiak, Marcin Kruk, Agata Kubis, Rafał Milach, Joanna Musiał, Wojtek Radwański, Bartek Sadowski, Karolina Sobel, Dawid Zieliński. With texts by various contributors (in Ukrainian, Polish and English). Edited by Karolina Gembara. Design by Ania Nałęcka-Milach. (Cover and distribute the plans below.)

Comments/Background: In response to the mass movements that have taken place in Poland in recent years, a group of photographers started a collective project to capture the changing social and political climate in the country. Founded in 2019 by Rafał Milach, in collaboration with photographers, activists, writers and academics, the Archive of Public Protests (APP) began collecting raw footage of ongoing protests. Motivated by a “duty to archive” and a need to study “the visual aspects of protest”, they approached this project as their civic responsibility. Today, the collective has 18 members from different regions of the country and different generations. In addition to its extensive online archive, the APP also publishes Gazeta Strajkowa (Strike newspaper). The article serves both educational and informational purposes and features a cross between photography, journalism and activism.

In November 2020, at the height of the pro-choice women’s strike, APP published the first issue of its journal. A few weeks earlier, on October 22, the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional a 1993 law, which authorized the termination of pregnancy in the event of serious or irreversible damage to the fetus. The decision sparked waves of protests across the country on a scale never seen before. The first issue was a spontaneous publication, and with a modest first print run of 1000 copies.

Since then, seven issues have been published, covering state and police oppression, climate change protests, the LGBTQIA+ community, Belarusian solidarity protests in Poland, the refugee crisis on the Polish- Belarusian and, more recently, anti-war and solidarity with Ukraine protests in Poland. Copies of the newspaper were distributed at the protests and can also be downloaded online as pdf files. Milach has also published a photo book titled Strike (revised here), based on his own images of the first six issues of the newspaper.

The seventh and final issue of strike log came out in mid-April, two months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and focuses on various anti-war and solidarity protests. Just in the first five days after the invasion, more than 280,000 people sought refuge in neighboring Poland. Poland expressed its unwavering support for Ukraine and the Poles gave a warm welcome to the many people forced to flee.

The front cover of strike log shows a yellow dove (an international symbol of peace) placed on a blue background, immediately making a statement about its content. Inside, the photographs are interspersed with bold typography, slogans used by protesters, and short reflections from Ukrainians who have found refuge in Poland (and Poles who have taken them in). The photographs are presented as a collective effort and are not directly attributed to each photographer; likewise, there are no captions, allowing the photographs to speak for themselves.

The front page of the newspaper combines a photo of a young woman holding a “Stop Terror” sign with the testimony of Olia Fedorova, a Ukrainian artist from Kharkiv. Another page overlaps a photo of exhausted women and children, seen at night and waiting outside with their hastily packed suitcases and bags, while the image on the right shows people with Ukrainian flags (some just printed on paper) on the street in Poland. Similar juxtapositions continue throughout the diary, powerfully capturing the unfolding human tragedy and the need for everyday people to take a stand and show their support.

A number of portraits included in the publication are reconciled. In one, a young woman has a Ukrainian flag wrapped around her, caught in a quiet moment, looking down. Another shows a woman looking straight into the camera, with Ukrainian flags painted on her face. It powerfully captures both the spirit of collective action and the kinds of people who are part of it.

Short but moving testimonies reflect the dramatic changes Ukrainians went through at the start of the war. They also connect visual storytelling to people’s experiences and show how quickly lives can change. One of them said: “I am 18 years old and I come from Kyiv. I studied English and French at university. In first year. I am a future philologist. When the war broke out, I was about to turn on my computer to study. Another: “I come from Zimbabwe, I have lived in Kharkiv for 4 years. In June, I was supposed to finish my studies — aeronautical engineering. They didn’t let me finish and I had two months left. And still others reflect on the new reality: “At least we are safe, no bombs, no rockets. Before, every night we ran to the shelter. Everyone panicked. They grabbed the children and ran away, but they didn’t even know where to go.

The slogans used by the demonstrators are documented and also transformed into banners. The central double page is a poster in Ukrainian blue and yellow, reading “No war”. Others read “Stop Putin / Stop War”, “Solidarity with Ukraine” (in Polish) again in capitals, and the loudest is “Fck Putin”. These pages are designed to be taken down and used during protests as ready made banners, a great example of images coming back to the streets and back to the people.

The power and strength of strike log are in its immediate reactions to unfolding events – documenting a complex moment, focusing on the human experience and sharing it with a wider audience. Just like brochures, zines, and other quick-print materials, newspapers can help spread ideas and build networks. Seen together, these photographs and testimonies show us both chaos and tension, solidarity and compassion. Produced as a simple and straightforward publication, it focuses on people, captures history as it unfolds and shows how photographs can empower action and spread important social messages more widely. The strike log shows what photography and printmaking can do when put together with care, and it’s a great example of a thoughtful protest publication.

Collector’s point of view: Since this is an informal publication, which does not specifically credit individual photographers, we will forego our usual discussion of specific gallery representation relationships and secondary market histories. Interested collectors should probably follow the APP’s website, linked in the sidebar.

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