Kateryna Radchenko on the new photojournalists of Ukraine

Sensitive Content – the following article contains references to sensitive topics, which some readers may find upsetting.

View Gallery 15 Photos
Reading Time: 4 minutes

On the morning of 24 February 2022, Ukrainian photographers woke up in a warzone. Many of them, such Mikhail Palinchak, Alina Smutko, Volodymyr Petrov and Pavel Dorogoy, chose to remain, documenting the horrific scenes taking place in their home.

The Russia-instigated war in Ukraine has raged for some six weeks. Estimates from the UN suggest that some 3.5 million people have fled to neighbouring countries including Poland, Moldova and Romania. But, despite the ongoing brutal bombing of civilian areas, many Ukrainians have chosen to remain. They include photographers, who stay to record how their home cities become almost unrecognisable. Doing nothing is not an option. In some ways, making photographs helps them cope with emotional stress. It also serves to raise worldwide awareness from the perspective of those who are living through this invasion, and archives collective memory. 

More than 2000 international journalists are currently in Ukraine reporting on the events. These are qualified correspondents with experience in conflict zones. Some local photojournalists also have assignments with international agencies and media. Now, a new group of Ukrainian photographers has formed. Formerly specialising in street photography, documentary and arts, now they take pictures on the front line of volunteers, displaced families, fortified cities and new daily routines. Since the dawn of 24 February 2022, these artists are war reporters too.

Volodymyr Petrov

@volodymyrpetrov

 

Kyiv-based photographer Volodymyr Petrov uses his lens to observe daily life, often in black-and-white, and has a talent for capturing fleeting moments while preserving classic composition. Every image tells a story, complete in its narrative and fascinating enough for a viewer to want to know more. Petrov worked for the Kyiv Post, and as a war photographer in Donbas. However, that experience is different from shooting a conflict in your home city.  

Today Petrov continues to record daily life in Kyiv and its suburbs, but the narrative has changed. People are still the focus of his pictures, but they are suffering. We see tears and confusion instead of smiling faces, while ruins of exploded buildings replace what were once cityscapes.

© Volodymyr Petrov.
© Volodymyr Petrov, 2022.
© Volodymyr Petrov,
© Volodymyr Petrov, 2022.

Mikhail Palinchak

@mpalinchakphoto

 

Born in Uzhgorod and based in Kyiv, Mikhail Palinchak is a street and documentary photographer and founder of the Ukrainian arts and culture magazine, Untitled. Between 2014 and 2019, Palinchak was the official photographer of Petro Poroshenko, the fifth President of Ukraine. Following the President on official missions, picturing him at summits of international organisations such as NATO, the EU and the United Nations, he often witnessed important political decision-making. His series, Bilateral Rooms (2018) pictures the rooms where these conversations took place. It visualises the volatility and elusiveness of political systems, which are embodied in temporary architectural forms. The rooms are basic and practical with cheap accessories, yet this is where fates of millions are decided. Today, his series has renewed relevance, when Ukraine’s fate depends on the dialogue between representatives of different organisations and leaders of different countries in these same spaces. 

Palinchak has been in Kyiv since the start of the war. Despite a new context, his artworks retain their aesthetic pull. Minimalist stories are full of drama conveyed through intense colour and an emphasis on details. His images have touched the hearts of the international community, such as those of the newlywed Yaryna Arieva, 21 and Svyatoslav Fursin, with their new AK47 guns. He regularly updates his Instagram with images and detailed explanations of what he is witnessing

Bilateral Rooms © Mikhail Palinchak.
© Mikhail Palinchak, March 2022.
Bilateral Rooms © Mikhail Palinchak.
© Mikhail Palinchak, March 2022.

Alina Smutko

@alina_smutko

 

Before the war, Alina Smutko’s work revolved around politics, sport, social and religious conflicts, life in post-conflict zones, historical memory and national identity. Smutko worked in Ukraine, predominantly in Crimea and in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. She also worked abroad in the South Caucasus and other post-Soviet territories. For her, photography allows her to address issues of social importance and to give voice to those who need support: mothers whose children died at birth or prematurely; seriously ill children; and Crimean Tatars who are forced to live in the occupation. She photographs people’s stories and their pain. 

Smutko is currently working in Kyiv. She continues to record stories of civilians who suffer from bombardment and shelling and are forced to flee to safer regions in Ukraine. Her use of a wide-angle lens brings us closer to the tragic events. Each day she posts an image to her Instagram to show that the capital stands. A recent post reads: “Kyiv is standing. Day 26. Store is working. Bread is on sale.”

New Hybrid Deportations © Alina Smutko.
New Hybrid Deportations © Alina Smutko.
Kyiv, 09 March 2022 © Alina Smutko.
Kyiv evacuation, 09 March 2022 © Alina Smutko.
Without Hint of Art © Pavel Dorogoy.

Pavel Dorogoy

@paveldorogoy

 

Kharkiv photographer and filmmaker Pavel Dorogoy has always gravitated to architecture and vernacular photography in his projects. His series Without Hint of Art is based on the photo archive of Shchetinin Borys Opanasovych, a former Soviet citizen who lived in Kharkiv and repaired camera lenses in his free time. To test the equipment, he took pictures of himself and the city from the window of his apartment. Dorogoy started working with the archive in 2016, exploring the relationship between the person and their environment. By interpreting and layering images, Dorogoy chronicles the transformation of the biggest residential area in Kharkiv during the era of industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s, placing Shchetinin at its centre.

Kharkiv, located just 30 kilometres from the Ukraine-Russia border, has been shelled and bombarded since the first day of the invasion. The violent assaults continue to this day. Despite the danger, Dorogoy decided to stay in the city and record evidence of crimes committed by the Russian army. He depicts the city, damaged houses and destroyed landmarks. There are lonely passers-by and bodies of the wounded and killed in the streets here and there, but Dorogoy makes sure to always show people with the infrastructure in the background to preserve its image.

“I am staying in my home city because I want to collect and keep evidence of Putin’s and Russia’s crimes”, Pavel Dorogoy posted on Facebook.

© Pavel Dorogoy, 2022.
© Pavel Dorogoy, 2022.