The Appleseed Necklace

Alexey Shlyk

2016 - Ongoing

Belgium; Belarus

Every time I think of my country (Belarus), I am reminded of how wonderfully resourceful and creative the people are. Probably those qualities were inherited - together with tolerance - from the Soviet period. As I was born in 1986, I was a citizen of the Soviet Union for part of my early childhood and I still remember my passport with the hammer and sickle on it and the empty racks in the stores.

This series is based on once predominant DIY culture in the country of my origin that developed in the time of my childhood. As I stage my photographs today, I refer to my memories and nostalgic feelings for the things that I have seen and heard in the past, events that I have participated in.

In the Appleseed Necklace I am talking about creativity, craftsmanship, diligence and typical recycling that were natural to the people living in conditions of constant shortages. It was a time when one had either to find a way to “snatch” what was needed or to make it out of the accessible materials.

Although today this lifestyle is more often seen in domestic decorations, I am trying to revive in my photographs what once was a vital necessity.

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  • Mainly used by constructors, paper hat was a number one toy for the kids’ war games.

  • Based on the story that was told by a friend, this lamp is a reconstruction of the traditional wheel chandelier, which was destroyed during one of the crazy wedding parties that where held in the house.

  • Cheering up the people during one of the latest financial crisis the president of the Republic of Belarus stated: You don't have enough of money for the gym? Take the bricks, and exercise at home!

  • I don't remember exactly who broke the vase, weather it was my brother or I. It took my grandmother almost a week to glue it together from the small pieces. At the moment it is still standing there, at my parent's house.

  • Re-styling and re-shaping the clothes that were previously worn by the parents has been one of the few means to actually have a fashionable dress.

  • As nothing could be thrown away, car was a great place to store material on the way to the summer house.

  • Activated charcoal was used to treat food poisonings and prevent hangovers. An urgent measure was to swallow the burned matches. Be sure to discard the “heads”!

  • It is still quite normal in Belarus to send students to summer job of collecting potatoes on almost obligatory basis. My classmate came unprepared for that dusty work and the crafty tractor driver made the protective glasses out of the available material - a plastic bottle and a rubber string. This ability to make something vital out of nothing has really surprised me.

  • It has been a great moment in my life to own that wooden horse that my father made. I have tried to carefully reconstruct it from my nostalgic feelings of that moment.

  • Nothing was thrown away, even if there was no evident need to keep it at the moment. Later those still working pieces were used to repair another objects.

  • Inner bicycle tires were a kind of a treasure material. The thin and light rubber was used to fix various things – from umbrellas to inflatable boats.

  • It is still common to see green corners with real and sometimes plastic plants in schools, polyclinics and other institutions. Those were probably aimed to educate young people to take care of nature, but most often artificial plants are found in domestic decorations in post-soviet region.

  • Old clothes were never thrown away. They were recycled in any possible way –starting from the ropes that were used to support the tomatoes in the garden to the beautiful patchwork blankets and curtains.

  • Newspaper proved to be a best choice to cover the small razor cuts. Unlike the cotton pads paper didn’t leave anything on the skin after it was removed and was perfect to stop the bleeding.

  • The similar flowerpots can be seen today in almost every city of the post-Soviet region. I don't have a clear explanation for those objects, but I guess that it was one of the means of recycling the material and at the same time the source of joy to the owners.

  • One summer we went for a vacation to the seaside. At very moment when we came to the water my father saw that it was full of shrimp, and he ran to the apartment that we stayed at, and came back with a pillow cover. It was a delicious dinner that day!

  • It is one of my early memories - winter birch trees. Back in the days winters were much colder.

  • Inspired by the rare western movies, high hairstyles became very popular. To obtain that look all different kinds of objects were hidden in the women's hair. Some people say that empty mayonnaise cans were the best.

  • Home made alcohol at all times was an important product and in most of the cases it could even replace money. I think that pretty much every family was at different points making either house wine or ‘samogon’.

  • 'Dachas' or the summer cottages are a specific cultural phenomenon for the post-Soviet region. Those tiny islands of freedom mostly feature constructions built out of the accessible material.