Justyna Mielnikiewicz, 2016 W. Eugene Smith Fund Grant Recipient

Passionate about people and their stories, Mielnikiewicz creates photographs that are sensitive studies of life in the areas surrounding the Russian border more than two decades following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In “A Diverging Frontier”, Mielnikiewicz’s concerns are complex, often discussing issues that relate to these regions such as the abstractness of borders, unity and disunity, and how personal beliefs can be exploited by leaders to incite conflict and destabilize. However, the photos themselves are grounded in the everyday, perhaps even the seemingly mundane—as Mielnikiewicz explains: “Even in the time of war, people still get up, brush their teeth, have to do their shopping. They go meet their friends, they marry and they die. In a peaceful time it’s easier, in wartime it’s harder. But war or revolution or unrest doesn’t stop real life.”