Anna Olszewska
Born in Poland in 1983, Anna was raised in a country transitioning from communism to a capitalist democracy, giving her early exposure to social and political issues and making her aware of and sensitive to everyday despairs. From then on, she was drawn by stories of ordinary people, whom she grew up next to and whose realities were, like hers, altered by political and economic events. Moving to Edinburgh in her early 20s she studied photography and after obtaining a BA (Honours), she moved to London to further her career Anna worked for UK and internationally based photographers on a variety of projects including still life, interior, portraiture & fashion, as well as taking on photographic commissions and developing personal projects. Prior to photography, Anna studied literature, which led to a storytelling rooted practice. Her work gravitates towards long-form reportage, documenting societies affected by political, economic, environmental and cultural conflicts. Her photographic practice is best described as a study; she takes time composing scenes, often revisiting places and subjects with hope of finding new depths – a different layer of the story. Contrasting this, she also finds herself in situations when the sitter becomes a director of the frame, and she simply follows their wishes. It is through these conflicting styles alongside simple graphic compositions, tones and structures that she creates truthful portraits of communities and places.
Goodbye Abkhazia (Do svidaniya Abkhazia)
The photographs presented here are a part of an ongoing project “Do svidaniya Abkhazia” (Goodbye Abkhazia), a photographic essay that explores a social and psychological landscape of community of Georgian refugees from Abkhazia residing in Tskaltubo, a once famous spa town in Georgia, South Caucasus. Tskaltubo’s popularity goes back centuries, but it was in the Soviet Era when the spa went through a renaissance that the town got its current shape. The radon carbon mineral springs attracted more than 125,000 visitors from across the Soviet Union each year, with Stalin being among them. Tskaltubo lost its glory with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many of the sanatorium and bath buildings slowly disintegrated, while others became homes for Georgian refugees that fled Abkhazia during the ethnic conflicts in the early 90’s. The Abkhazian war in 1992-1993 claimed, according to the Red Cross, between 10,000 and 15,000 lives and led to displacement of around 250,000 people. In the light of extreme violence in former Yugoslavia, conflict in Abkhazia received very little international attention. Although it’s been nearly 25 years since the war, the ethnic Georgians who escaped the atrocities still suffer the consequences. Classed as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Abkhazia is considered Georgian territory under occupation, they were given very little hope of returning home. Those who arrived in Tskaltubo (9000 people) received temporary accommodation in sanatorium buildings across town with the promise of relocation. Quickly forgotten by local authorities many still reside in small rooms given to them over 20 years ago. Those I have met and photographed described life in town as ‘ploho’, meaning poor. This sentiment is echoed by displaced people across Georgia. In 2013, the United Nations Development Programme found that 45% of IDPs had failed to improve their way of life since being displaced. Refugees in Tskaltubo live in poverty, on a margin of society and daily headlines, hoping that Georgia’s government will wake up and notice their plight. Their stories resurface from time to time just to be forgotten again. In a short interview photographer Mathieu Assalin says that photography itself doesn’t change the world but it hopefully informs. My aim with this project is to bring attention to this forgotten community grappling with displacement, poverty and a perpetual state of limbo.

The Addis Foto Fest (AFF) was established in 2010 by award-winning photographer and cultural entrepreneur, Aida Muluneh. The festival is organized by Desta for Africa Creative Consulting PLC. AFF is a biennial international photography festival held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has previously featured exhibitions, portfolio reviews, conferences, projections and film screenings in many different renowned venues. It is also the first and only international photography festival in East Africa.