Archiwum Protestów Publicznych (Archive of Public Protests)

Warsaw. 12th day of protests after Constitutional Court declared abortion illegal in case of severely damaged foetus.

Archiwum Protestów Publicznych (Archive of Public Protests)


GUP Author

Patrycja Rozwora

The Archive of Public Protests is a collection of photographs documenting visual traces of social activism and grassroots initiatives in Poland, opposing unjust political decisions and, most importantly, helping to underscore breaches of democratic norms and human rights – an unfortunate and dangerous sign of our times. 

The archive was initiated by Rafal Milach (b. 1978, Poland), associated with Magnum Photos and Sputnik Photos, whose work mainly focuses on history and transformation—particularly within the former Soviet bloc. Be it that he was never really interest in a direct representation of a political ideology and so protest photography, after the Polish parliamentary elections of 2015 the reality of many Polish people has changed dramatically and Milach felt it was time to take a step forward. 

Warsaw. Anti-governmental protest “We March for Freedom. We March for All”. Various groups and organisations joined Women’s Strike in the protest that took place on the 39th anniversary of introduction of Martial Law in communist Poland. Thousands of protesters took to the streets despite of Covid-19 pandemic. © Rafał Milach

The rulings of Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc PiS (Law and Justice) – a national conservative and right-wing populist political party has sparked an ongoing wave of civil unrest and various social movements. Throughout the years people across Poland showed active resistance against systemic xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny as well as the corrupt and unlawful justice system and the ongoing mistreatment of the planet. 

In response to the mass movements, a collective of concerned citizens who happened to be professional photographers, decided to join forces and create a platform portraying the social and political situation in Poland. Apart from documenting, the archive is also a warning against rising right wing populism that can be observed not only in Poland and Hungary but basically all across the globe.

Warsaw 08.08.2020 Demonstrations in support of the LGBT community, after the arrest of Margot – an LGBT activist © Rafał Milach

The collective was initially established by six photographers but is currently counting eighteen members coming from various photographic backgrounds. All of them created from a ‘duty to archive’ and to study the visual aspects of protests. For many it’s also a way to show solidarity with the mistreated discriminated and violated citizens of Poland. 

As the name suggests The Archive of Public Protests is an open source platform accessible to artists researchers and activist who wish to further investigate the Polish social movements. Unlike a typical press source – where an image is produced purely for the sake of being published, and shortly after forgotten – the creators of the archive wish to prolong the life of their images beyond the mainstream media. All of the members, photograph from their own initiative, without any institutional ties. 

As stated on their website “The Archive of Public Protests in not a news agency or an objective press entity – mostly because narrative objectivity is a myth used in the current discussion mainly as a measure of adherence to a certain order.” Photographs are a proof that an event has occurred, they are witnesses to those happenings. However every step in the photographic process: the framing the timing and the publishing are all subjective and individual choices. 

The people who shape the photo collection, do so out of a civic responsibility. The camera as a tool, helps them understand the socio-political situation of their country. The way the photographers portray the protests, manifests their own political position and the values they care to spread around. 

Warsaw. Demonstration of the Women’s Strike ‘Blockade of the Sejm’ © Agata Kubis

In addition to the online archive, the photographers collective have also published Gazeta Strajkowa (Strike Newspaper). The so far two-issue large format publication features images from various demonstrations along stories of protesters, often discussing systemic injustice and police violence. Apart from its informative and educational purpose, the paper can also serve as an functional protest prop. Every issue encompasses a collection of full-page protest slogans that can be used as posters or demonstration banners. The paper can be purchased or downloaded free of charge, allowing people to actively support the protests and show residence, wherever they are. 

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