Various Artists, Strike Newspaper #7

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2022 by the Archive of Public Protests (here). Softcover, 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). Edit by Karolina Gembara. Design by Ania Nałęcka-Milach. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: In response to the mass movements taking place in Poland over the past few 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, together with photographers, activists, writers and academics, the Archive of Public Protests (A-P-P) started collecting raw footage from the ongoing protests. They were motivated by a “duty to archive” and a need to study “the visual aspects of protest”, and approached this project as their responsibility as citizens. Today the collective has 18 members from different parts of the country and from different generations. In addition to its extensive online archive, the A-P-P also publishes Gazeta Strajkowa (Strike Newspaper). The paper serves both educational and informative purposes, and presents a cross between photography, journalism, and activism.

In November of 2020, at the high point of the pro-choice women’s strike, the A-P-P released the first issue of its newspaper. Just weeks earlier, on October 22nd, the Constitutional Court ruled that a 1993 law, which allowed for termination of pregnancy in the event of severe or irreversible damage to the fetus, was unconstitutional. The decision sparked waves of protests across the country on a scale previously unseen. 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, Belarussian solidarity protests in Poland, the refugee crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border, and more recently, the 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 also published a photobook titled Strike (reviewed here), based on his own images from the first six issues of the newspaper.

The seventh and most recent issue of Strike Newspaper came out in mid April, two months into 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 280000 people sought safety in neighboring Poland. Poland has expressed its unwavering support to Ukraine, and Poles have offered a warm welcome to the many people forced to flee.

The front cover of the Strike Newspaper shows a yellow dove (an international symbol of peace) placed against a blue background, immediately making a statement about its content. Inside the photographs are intertwined with bold typography, slogans used by the protesters, and short reflections from the Ukranians who found refuge in Poland (and the Poles who hosted them). The photographs are presented as a collective effort and are not directly credited to each photographer; similarly, there are no captions, allowing the photographs to speak for themselves. 

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

A number of portraits included in the publication are taken up close. 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 yet moving testimonies reflect the dramatic changes Ukrainians went through at the beginning of the war. They also connect the visual narrative with the experiences of the people, and show how quickly lives can change. One of them reads, “I am 18 years old and I am from Kyiv. I studied English and French at the university. In the first year. I am a future philologist. When the war broke out, I was about to open my computer to study.” Another one, “I am from Zimbabwe, I have lived in Kharkiv for 4 years. In June I was supposed to finish my studies — aviation engineering. They didn’t let me finish, and I had two months left.” And still others reflect on the new reality: “At least we’re safe, no bombs, no rockets. Before, every night we ran to the shelter. Everyone panicked. They grabbed the kids and ran, but they didn’t even know where to go.”

The slogans used by the protesters are documented and also turned into banners. The central spread is a poster in Ukrainian blue and yellow, reading “No War”. Others read “Stop Putin / Stop War”, “Solidarity with Ukraine” (in Polish) again in all caps, and the strongest one is “Fck Putin”. These pages are designed to be taken apart and used during protests as ready-to-go banners, a great example of images coming back on the streets, and back to the people.

The power and strength of the Strike Newspaper are in its immediate reactions to the unfolding events –  documenting a complex moment, focusing on the human experience, and sharing it with a wider audience. Just like pamphlets, zines, and other other quickly printed materials, newspapers can help to disseminate ideas and create networks. Seen together, these photographs and testimonies show us both the chaos and the tension, the solidarity and the compassion. Produced as a simple and straightforward publication, it puts its emphasis on people, capturing history as it happens, and shows how photographs can strengthen action and circulate important social messages more widely. The Strike Newspaper demonstrates what photography and printmaking can do when put together with care, and it is an excellent example of a thoughtful protest publication. 

Collector’s POV: Since this is an informal publication, which doesn’t credit the individual photographers specifically, we will forego our usual discussion of specific gallery representation relationships and secondary market histories. Interested collectors should likely follow up on the A-P-P website, linked in the sidebar.

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Read more about: Rafal Milach, Archive of Public Protests (A-P-P)

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