The Polish Archive of Public Protests and Yelena Yemchuk as Part of this Year's Fotografia Europea Festival in Italy

by Amina Ahmed


Chiostri di San Pietro
On View:
28.04 – 11.06.2023
Opening times:
28th of April: 19-23 h
29th of April: 10-23 h
1st of May: 10-20 h
Wed-Thu: 10-13|15-19 h
Fri-Sun & public holidays: 10 - 20 h
Sat 29.04.23 11:00 h
Chiostri di San Pietro | Laboratorio Aperto
Meet The Artist
APP & Yelena Yemchuk
Mod. L. Lebart, T. Clark



From 28 April to 11 June 2023, the renowned international photography festival Fotografia Europea returns to Reggio Emilia. This festival, which recently won the prestigious Lucie Award for Best Photo Festival of the Year in Los Angeles, is organized by the Palazzo Magnani Foundation in collaboration with the Municipality of Reggio Emilia and with support from the Emilia-Romagna Region. 

The highly anticipated XVIII edition of European Photography focuses on pressing current events that continuously challenge our individual and social identities. The theme for this edition is Europe matters: visions of a restless identity, while the selected projects are curated by the festival's artistic direction composed of Tim Clark (editor of 1000 Words and curator of Photo London Discovery), Walter Guadagnini (photography historian and Director of CAMERA - Italian Center for Photography), and Luce Lebart (photography historian, co-author of the influential book Une histoire global des femmes photographes, and curator and researcher for the Archive of Modern Conflict Collection). This edition stands out not only for the quality of its exhibitions but also for the caliber of its meetings, conferences, book presentations, and educational activities that will be organized throughout the festival.

Once again, the grand Chiostri di San Pietro will serve as the central hub of the festival, housing a total of ten exhibitions including two by artists from Eastern Europe: Odesa by Ukrainian photographer Yelena Yemchuk and You Will Never Walk Alone by the Poland-based collective Archive of Public Protests (APP). As part of the accompanying program of the festival, visitors will have the opportunity to meet Yemchuk and members of the APP, who will be discussing their work in a session moderated by Luce Lebart and Tim Clark.

Yelena Yemchuk, a Ukrainian immigrant who moved to the United States with her parents at the age of eleven, created the Odesa photographic project as a tribute to the city that has always intrigued her due to its freedom during the Soviet era. In 2003, Yemchuk made her initial visit to Odesa, and it left a lasting impression. However, it was her return in 2015 that marked a significant turning point in her project. On this occasion, she focused on capturing the faces of sixteen and seventeen-year-old boys and girls from the Military Academy. The ongoing conflict on the eastern border, which had started a year prior, convinced Yemchuk to expand her project to encompass not only these individuals but also the broader life context surrounding them. This expansion aimed to immortalize the experiences of these young faces who would soon be thrust onto the front lines.

The exhibition You Will Never Walk Alone at Fotografia Europea will showcase works by the members of the Archive of Public ProtestsThe Archive collects images and visual traces of social activism that not only embody ideals opposing political decisions but also serve as a warning against the rise of populism and discrimination, encompassing issues such as xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and the climate crisis.

The main purpose of the creators is to prolong the life of these images beyond their initial publication in the press. Firstly, the APP gathers photographs into an easily accessible collection for artists and activists. Secondly, the Archive and its images will be open to all users who align with the values of the creators.

It is important to mention the archiving of public gatherings, as proposed by Rafael Drozdowski, to study events that have been taking place on the Polish streets for several years. While it may seem modest, this undertaking is immensely responsible, as it shapes the way we think about protests and emphasizes the need to study the visual aspects of protests, including their aesthetics, performance, and settings.

These are the principles that guide the creators of APP. Despite the traditional terminology used in the name of this photographic venture, the archive exhibits a loose organizational structure and distances itself from the aesthetic canons of photojournalism.

It represents a natural evolution of a journalistic primer that prioritizes engagement and commitment during times filled with injustices against the most vulnerable. Although it remains an institutional invention, its contents can become a banner in your hand, a poster on a building, or a picture on a wall. They can serve as a part of a bodily gesture, an agent of transformation and political change, rather than mere representations of resistance.


More information about the event is here.  


The Archive of Public Protests (APP) is a collective of photographers and writers and their work documenting post-2015 protests in Poland, established in 2019. A website and an Instagram account host its images, and it also publishes Strike Newspaper. 

Participants: Michał Adamski, Marta Bogdańska, Karolina Gembara, Łukasz Głowala, Marcin Kruk, Agata Kubis, Michalina Kuczyńska, Adam Lach, Alicja Lesiak, Rafał Milach, Joanna Musiał, Chris Niedenthal, Wojtek Radwański, Bartek Sadowski, Karolina Sobel, Paweł Starzec, Grzegorz Wełnicki, Dawid Zieliński.


Yelena Yemchuk (1970, UA) originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, relocated to the United States with her parents when she was eleven years old. She pursued her artistic education at Parsons in New York and studied photography at Art Center in Pasadena. Yemchuk's talent has been recognized through exhibitions of her paintings, films, and photography in galleries and museums around the world. Her photography work has been commissioned by esteemed publications such as the New Yorker, New York Times, Another, ID, Vogue, and others.

In April 2011, Yemchuk released her first book titled "Gidropark," which was published by Damiani. This was followed by another publication called "Anna Maria" in September 2017, which was published by United Vagabonds. Yemchuk achieved her first institutional debut with her project "Mabel, Betty & Bette," a collection of photography and video works showcased at the Dallas Contemporary Museum. A monograph sharing the same title was published by Kominek Books in March 2021. Her latest book, "Odesa," is scheduled for release in May 2022 through Gost Books.


Fotografia Europea is an international cultural festival dedicated to contemporary photography. The festival, created in 2006, is promoted by the Fondazione Palazzo Magnani and the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. Fotografia Europea uses photography as a tool to reflect upon the complexity of contemporary living following the lesson of the local photographer Luigi Ghirri, a prominent figure in the late 90s photography’s renewal, whose archive is stored in the city. The festival takes place in different locations of the city, both public and private, formal and informal, and it consists of a central core of exhibitions, among which new ad hoc commissioned productions related to a specific theme identified every year by the Scientific Committee.


Image: Rafał Milach, Women’s Strike Protest against nearly total abortion ban, Warsaw, Poland, 28.10.2020, courtesy of The Archive of Public Protests


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