Saloshanka is not a native German himself, but moved from Minsk, Belarus in 2002. As he talked and worked with the refugees, he heard their stories and began to understand the precipice on which they stood—a break between their livelihoods, families and places of worship at home and the lives they hoped to lead in Germany. “Many tell of the war before their doorstep, but also tell of persecution, injustice, discrimination against women and no opportunities, training or jobs. Some had experienced death directly to their relatives or friends.”
The public art project of New Citizens seeks to spread this discourse of understanding and welcoming cultural differences “to the widest possible public and continue to develop it there,” Saloshanka says. His work unfurls like a new kind of flag over the facades of Frankfurt, one without a country’s symbol or designation but that signifies the welcoming of new faces into the city. For Saloshanka, the series is “an attempt to lead this dialogue. I believe that art has an indirect effect on society… My idea is to play with another perception.” The German title of the project, Neue Bürger, Saloshanka says has a “different connotation” than New Citizens. “It also means taking a lot of responsibility for the society, which is not the case for the immigrants. Their status has few possibilities.”
The most interesting and fraught part of the process, according to Saloshanka, was photographing women “because their culture forbids this” or often men “decide whether the woman is allowed to be shown.” These cultural and religious differences often surround the use of a headscarf, which one woman working on the series decided to take off for her portrait. This deeply impacted Saloshanka, who says that “the emancipation of the woman is a big story” and one that he will “continue in this year.”
“It has been an approximation process for myself.
I now really see these people with other eyes.”
— Vitus Saloshanka
New Citizens marks an aesthetic break from Saloshanka’s previous photographic work, which focuses on the edges of built landscapes and those who live there. But thematically there is a through-line of commingling people and place and exploring how the two lend themselves to one another. His recent work includes High Hopes, a three-year photographic study of Sochi, Russia that documents the city and its people as they prepared to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The series highlights the process of transformation that proceeds such a massive, global event, as well as the glimmers of change coming to a younger generation of Russians. An allusion to the grand ambitions and expectations that enraptured Sochi, High Hopes zooms out to capture massive overhauls and construction, juxtaposing colorful scenes of nature against built landscapes, with keen attention to those living in its midst.
Saloshanka’s next project will focus “on the North-Eastern border areas of the EU.” He explains, “Until recently, this area formed a cultural and political entity. I want to explore the border areas of the former Iron Curtain, visualize changes and find out what characterizes today’s EU border.” Examining boundary zones and the intimate human impact when borders are redrawn, Saloshanka will continue to mine changed political and social landscapes to highlight subjects caught in limbo: the displaced, the unrepresented and the resilient. Of New Citizens, he says, “It has been an approximation process for myself. I now really see these people with other eyes.”