A bag rests on a plain white chair; men in suits wait in a lounge area; unopened water bottles sit on an empty table — the photos that make up the series “Bilateral Rooms” look like they could come from any typical business meeting.
Instead, the series, by photographer Mikhail Palinchak, reveals a look at the everyday spaces where some of the world’s most powerful figures come together to make crucial decisions that shape the lives of millions of people. In his photo series, Palinchak opens the closed door to the negotiation rooms where the action takes place, exploring the paradoxes that come from using temporary spaces that look like any other conference room to make the choices that permanently shift the course of the world.
From NATO summits to the United Nations General Assembly and even to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, each negotiation room offers up something similar: minimalist interiors with only the basics, nondescript furniture and subdued colors that offer a backdrop for representatives from all nations to hold the most pertinent conversations.
Mikhail Palinchak is a Ukraine-based photographer. Follow him on Instagram @mpalinchakphoto
Mahita Gajanan is a reporter at TIME. Follow her on Twitter @mahitagajanan
Maïa Booker, who edited this photo essay, is a Senior Multimedia Editor at TIME. Follow her on Instagram @maiabooker_