chapter three







ork on the book began when I met one of the authors of the book, Slava (his Instagram). We spoke for the first time on the 14th of October 2022.

Slava lies in wait for an animal

Slava spent 10 years travelling around Belarus, with friends and on his own, and taking photographs of the nature and wildlife. After our first meeting, I asked Slava to share some more photos with me. Slava shared 3 folders, each one containing more than 1,000 photos.

They were, in his own words, only the “best” photos. So just imagine the quantity of the images that didn’t make the cut.

One of the folders with the preselected “best” photos

He also put together a whole archive of behind-the-scenes footage from his trips: one gigabyte of photos and videos of the guys wading through the swamps, sleeping in fields and just hanging out in the wild.

Some of the behind-the-scenes photos

Shooting a film about the book at Slava’s house

Slava’s first drone

Slava wanted to make the book with the friend with whom he had travelled and taken photographs. He invited him to participate in the project: that is how I met the second author of the book — Alex (his Instagram).

A mock-up

We decided that making a book with just photographs would be boring, and it would be better to record some stories about the guys’ travels. Stories about how and where all this footage was captured, so that the abstract shots of the landscape could be filled with the life that lies within them.

At the time I didn’t know what it was. I do now — this is a chalk quarry.

Another shot. Of a swamp?

To turn the memories into stories, Slava invited our editor, Olya Polevikova, to take part in the project.

Slava, Olya and me

Olya arranged the calls, went through all the photo archives together with the guys and recorded some stories, that were later transformed into stories for the book.

The first drafts of the stories were in Russian.

They were then rewritten, translated into Belarusian and English, and finalised.

A Zoom-interview where Olya looked at the photos and recorded the stories

A spread of the book with the recorded stories

An attempt to avoid using a human editor (creator — Slava+ChatGPT)

A photo from the last interview

Drafts of the text in Google Docs

I would like to slightly digress here: after meeting Slava, I found myself face-to-face with an unusual problem. Having assessed the volume of the gathered material, having listened to Slava and having seen the level of attention to detail with which he treats things, I understood two things: the book will be very expensive and it will take a very long time to make.

I had the opportunity to get involved in a very long, complicated and most likely financially suicidal project. We were planning to make a ridiculously expensive book with photos of Belarus.

Would even a single Belarusian understand why they are in need of such a book? Would they be prepared to buy it for such a sum?

I was able to assess the cost of this book due to my experience: I had already made some books before, big ones, small ones, cheap ones, and expensive ones too. It was clear that in this case the book would be neither cheap nor small.

I took one day to think about all this and sent Slava the following message:

The message I sent to Slava that got the project off the ground

I don’t know what happened. Some kind of understanding that what we are about to do is really important and really cool, and that nothing else really matters. From that moment on a group chat about the project was created. We began to brainstorm book titles, concepts, various approaches and, in general, talk about the fact that we will make this book.