Mielnikiewicz uses a classic, black and white format and a humanistic style of photojournalism. The main focus of her first projects was the Southern Caucasus, though she is also drawn to the communities of other former states of the Soviet Union (Moldova, Russia) as well as the Near East (Turkey, Iran).
Justyna Mielnikiewicz (born 1973) has devoted her professional career and private life to the Caucasus. Before she left for Georgia in 2001, she had worked as a photo reporter for Gazeta Wyborcza from 1999. Since moving to Tbilisi in 2002, she has remained in constant contact with the paper’s editors and Polish photographic circles, but now works freelance. The main focus of her first projects was the Southern Caucasus, though she is also drawn to the communities of other former states of the Soviet Union (Moldova, Russia) as well as the Near East (Turkey, Iran). Her work, using a classic black and white format and a humanistic style of photojournalism, soon attracted the attention of the press and jurors of international photographic competitions. Her very first project, Walking the Caucasus Chalkline (2003), which tells the story of the unending dramatic ethnic and political conflicts engulfing the Southern Caucasus, won numerous prizes (among others an honourable mention in the Dorotea Lange / Robert Taylor Prize competition, a scholarship from the European Cultural Foundation and second prize in the Santa Fe Center for Visual Arts Project Competition).
Living permanently in the capital of Georgia and travelling around the Caucasus, Mielnikiewicz has become an expert on Caucasian culture and the region’s complex politics. Her works are marked by a thorough analysis of the subject and individual photographs are often accompanied by extensive notes that firmly place them in context. Although able to instantly react to the volatile and often dramatic political situations in the region’s states, Mielnikiewicz has concentrated primarily on a systematic study of the region spread out over several years, and has built up a comprehensive archive documenting the everyday life, customs and material culture of the Caucasus.
The photographer regularly works with The New York Times and Newsweek. She has also been published in Paris Match, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Monocle, Stern, Russian Reporter Magazine, Ogoniok, National Geographic Traveler and Le Monde, to name but a few. Since 2006, she has been an active member of the Sputnik Photos collective, which unites photographers from Central and Eastern Europe. In 2009, she was awarded second prize in the World Press Photo competition for her photographs documenting the war in Southern Ossetia (2008). In the same year she won the Canon Female Photojournalist Prize. Since 2009, she has been working on a photographic series dedicated to the life of women in the countries of the former Soviet Union, titled What Would People Say?. Along that project, she has also been working on A Ukraine Runs Thru It, an extended cycle about contemporary Ukraine.
In 2014, Mielnikiewicz published her first photobook Woman With a Monkey- Caucasus in Short Stories and Photographs.
The original text was published in The Decisive Moment. New Phenomena in Polish Photography Since 2000, Karakter, 2012
Author: Adam Mazur, October 2012, update: A.Micińska, June 2014