A series of photographs of people protesting against logging in Białowieża Forest in 2017, particularly the activists involved with Camp for the Forest, which was still operational at the time.
The photographer documented the several-month-long protests, as well as the protesters blocking the path of heavy machinery. Kusz not only immortalised the activists, but also participated actively himself. A year after the dramatic events in the forest, he admitted that he still found it hard to get over the violence he had experienced there, such as people’s arms being twisted as they were forcibly removed from protest sites.
While taking the photographs, I was flooded with sorrow and bitterness, sensing the injustice and absurdity of the logging, but was also fascinated by the forest and the people defending it.
To introduce his photographs, Kusz used an excerpt from a Gazeta Wyborcza article by Ryszard Kapuściński. In the mid-1990s, Kapuściński had written about discussions on the future of Białowieża Forest, noting the collision of “two camps, or even two cultures, two mentalities”. The first camp consisted of “throwbacks to the hunter-gatherer era of societal development” who would fell trees and slaughter animals whenever they required it. For the second, nature was a “kindred companion” – an essential element for existence. Kapuściński warned:
Every time they chop down a forest, a part of the world disappears forever.
Photographs by Jacek Kusz were awarded first prize in the environment category at the Grand Press Photo 2018 competition.