From day one

I was around 14 years old when this whole “Emo” and “SuicideGirls” trend got more and more popular.  I felt like I had to take the best pictures I could for social media to try to be popular as them - I guess most of the young girls from small towns aimed to look like the cool city girls. I started to photograph my friends with the same looks and at the age of 17, I spent all of my savings to get my first Canon 550d Rebel T1I, which my sister brought back from the USA. From that moment on, I understood I would become a photographer

Portrait with cat by photographer and filmmaker Krystsina Shyla, winner of the Beazy November contest.
Make Up art portrait by photographer and filmmaker Krystsina Shyla, winner of the Beazy November contest.

12 years later, I now mostly shoot with my Sony alpha 7iii and my favourite lenses the 35mm f/1.4 and the 24-70mm, f/2.8. I also love my analogue Pentax k1000.

I'm struggling a lot because I'm always in a hurry. It is hard for me to stay in the present moment. I'm mostly stuck in the past or worrying about the future. Photography allows me to stop the time here and now. I have terabytes of pictures which will never be published because capturing these moments was and still is my therapy.

Building connections when photographing new faces has become my driving force. People are my source of inspiration. Whether it's with my family or absolute strangers with whom I end up having deep conversations, I always end up discovering unique stories and experiences. I sometimes end up revealing sides of people that they were not aware of, or sides they've been afraid to show. I never compare myself to anyone, but I like to immerse myself in their stories and learn from them as much as I can. When taking photos, my focus is to translate the uniqueness and the beauty I see in every human through my lens.

Portrait of a girl in a bath with roses and flowers by photographer Krystsyna Shyla
Portrait through a window with rain drops in back and white by photographer Krystsina Shyla

The Winning Shot

I, unfortunately, couldn't be in my motherland Belarus during the presidential elections because of travel restrictions, but I felt deeply affected by the ongoing events. Just to recap what happened in Belarus, formerly known as Byelorussia: for the past 26 years, the country has been ruled by President Lukashenko. Often described as Europe's "last dictator", he has tried to preserve elements of Soviet communism. Much of manufacturing remains under state control, and the main media are controlled and censored by the government. This led to corruption and poverty being widespread across the country.
I've been aware of this since my childhood but most Belarusian people seemed to act wilfully blind. The mentality was mostly: stay calm, don't show off, don’t ask questions, and work. It made me angry. What about the lies and on the awful conditions of our everyday lives? What about freedom?
I moved to Germany four years ago because I never believed anything would ever change in my country. I was blaming Belarusians, Lukashenko, and myself.
But this year, things took an unexpected turn. All the opposition candidates were imprisoned one by one before the election even started, and people finally woke up. Belarusians decided to stand up for themselves, for their freedom, and their country. I was crying my eyes out while witnessing the movement taking place. I was so proud of my nation and felt ashamed and guilty for giving up on them and thinking nothing would ever change. 

I had created the concept for these shot days ahead, and always carried this piece of red fabric with me while waiting for the perfect moment and environment to press the shutter. While being on a trip to Tenerife with my friend, this strong wind started hitting the mountains. I felt the need to be part of the photo, the same way I'm part of my nation. I photographed myself with this red fabric flying away as the symbol of free thoughts. I call it the “Freedom of the mind”: the freedom which is born within each individual and which triggers the most impactful changes. And it represents what happened with my nation. Belarus's symbol of freedom is the White-Red-White flag, since before Lukashenko even became president. 
Wining photo of girl with flying fabric belarus conflict 2020 by photographer Krystsina Shyla

Less than a week after the elections, the first protester was killed, and thousands of people got imprisoned. I decided to help in all the ways I could from abroad. One of them was to spread information about the ongoing events with my art. I can not be ignorant about what happens there and I believe that standing together as one nation is our strength. We are one, we support each other. Whether it's for food, water, jobs, or money. We will carry each other until all the fear is gone and until we will live in a free country.

Winning photo of Belarus Conflicts by photographer and filmmaker Krystsina Shyla, winner of the Beazy November contest.
Politics set the rules on how the majority of people will think and behave. But there is always another part of the population staying aside from it and cultivating their thoughts and choices. This is what engenders most of the major conflicts: wealth versus poverty, ignorance versus care, hate versus tolerance, peace versus violence. Journalism photography is one of my favourites. A single picture gives you an objective view of a current situation and becomes food for your thoughts. You're the one who decides what to do with it: ignore it, or act about it to try to make this world a better place.

The faces

The most impactful project I worked on was a series I shot with my grandma. Three years ago, I struggled to create a series from all the pictures I took. A photographer friend of mine gave me the goal of putting down a concept of a three to five photos series which would tell a story that mattered to me. A story to which people could relate. I don't know if I achieved the goal as expected, but I decided that my hero would be my grandma in her Belarusian wooden house. She was the kindest person I have ever met in my life. She went through war, and post-war time, and raised kids, grandkids, and gran kids. She didn't know what Ego was. All she cared about was her family. She passed away half a year ago, at the age of 92. And even though I didn't manage to make a movie about her, I have these pictures. 

Portrait of grand mother in Belarus by photographer Krystsina Shyla
Portrait of grand mother in Belarus by photographer Krystsina Shyla
Portrait of grand mother with scarf in front of a mirror in Belarus by photographer Krystsina Shyla
Hands of grand mother with letters and old photos in Belarus by photographer Krystsina Shyla

I'm always building close relationships with the people I'm photographing. Even if we just met a few minutes ago, we become close. Trust is the core point to get authentic photos. There has to be a two-way relationship of trust: the person in front of the camera has to feel as open and as comfortable as possible, but I also need to be self-confident and trust my own skills & feelings.
Portrait of girl with sunlight boheme style by photographer Krystsina Shyla
Portrait of girl on a rooftop in Berlin with sunlight boheme style by photographer Krystsina Shyla
Hands with tattoos and embroided fabric in Berlin by photographer Krystsina Shyla

Next Steps

2020 showed me that planning can be very painful. You have to stay flexible. Of course, I aim to develop more in video and photography and inspire others by sharing my knowledge with them. Five years from now, I'm planning to open an online and offline school with courses for those who want to start photography and combine it with travel and filming. I want to guide and empower young talents and show them there's nothing to be afraid of. I also stood there, and I know how tough it can be to make a living from your passion.
You can check my Website, Instagram, Youtube and Beazy pages to follow my projects and discover more of my work.