You Just Missed Her by Anastasia Shpilko

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The present is shaped by thousands of choices. To speculate where we would find ourselves if those choices had been different can feel bitter or it can feel satisfying, but it is unlikely to be accurate. Sometimes, though, curiosity is so ruthless that there is no option but to start imagining.

1989. I was born in Minsk. 

1992. Three years after I was born, Minsk changed from a provincial Soviet city into the capital of sovereign Belarus and my family changed their citizenship by moving to Moscow. 

2019. Three years after returning to my birthplace with a camera, I completed this work driven by the question: what would my life have been like if we had stayed?

The slow pace of change in Belarus facilitated my imaginings. The setting for people’s coming of age in Minsk today to a great extent resembles what I abandoned over two decades ago. Navigating between personal memories and contemporary realities, I tried to envision a female account of growing up in the city by photographing girls and women aged from 3 to 30. Shuffling through infinite possible twists in a story of mine that never happened, I grasped fragments of the ones that I encountered in its place. In the process, landscapes, buildings, and objects, which my mind preserved explicitly from having seen them so close-up so many times, began to feel like constructs of my imagination. Pictures yielded by my roaming fantasy started to feel real. Eventually, what appeared to be an array of loose threads came together in a tapestry that misses out myself but fills in what I have missed, encompassing in an intricate way the past, the present, and the promise of a future.