“I’m generally interested in trade fairs. Access for ordinary people is forbidden to these events and the visitors are usually exhibitors, professionals and reporters,” explains photographer Nikita Teryoshin. “Inside, you have a chance to take a look behind the scenes at the goings-on of an industry and also find some remarkable motives. It was only a question of time before I would visit an arms fair. After a hunting exhibition (Sons and Guns) I planned my next project. I wanted to show the opposite side of war and destruction.”
For this ongoing series, Nothing Personal, the photographer gained access to the MSPO arms fair in the suburban tranquility of Kielce, a small town between Warsaw and Krakow in Poland. MSPO is the biggest military trade fair in Eastern Europe, which takes place every year under the patronage of the Polish president. The 24th fair in September 2016 was the biggest in MSPO’s history.
Having researched what happens at these events online the photographer joined the throngs of businessmen, soldiers, politicians and civilians at the event. “The fair itself looked a bit like a huge playground for adults. Tanks, drones, machine guns, everything had to be boarded and touched by young and old – soldiers, businessmen and also civilians,” says Nikita. “There were many simulators for helicopters or boats with machine guns and hydraulic engines. Even the bazooka was plugged into a flatscreen for people to try out.”
What is startling about the images is the amount of food and alcohol available to the delegates. The juxtaposition between the civility of dining on canapés and purchasing weapons is stark. “To be honest, it blew my mind for a while,” recalls Nikita. “After I cooled down a bit, the biggest challenge was to find the right angle to put both into one picture.”
The delegates are provided with a degree of anonymity, we see shoes, hands and backs in the photographs which creates an air of menace – is it a Goldfinger or Dr. No in the picture? Yet seeing people dressed in suits peering into tanks and the rows of wineglasses arranged like soldiers in a military parade lightens what could be a worrying visual essay, with the photographer having identified and captured the absurdity of an unseen world.