The Information Front ensures the war and atrocities taking place in Ukraine are not forgotten

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All images courtesy of The Information Front

Created by Kateryna Radchenko, Donald Weber and Christopher Nunn, the newspaper publication collates images taken by Ukrainian photographers and photojournalists on the ground

Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 sent shockwaves through Europe and the rest of the world. Even though Russia had already been waging a smaller war in Ukraine’s easternmost provinces since 2014, Western politicians had bought into the idea that this was caused by separatists (despite there being abundant evidence of Moscow having full control over them). Once Russia’s military began invading Ukraine from the north, east and south, the land of Ukraine, in effect, became a war zone. It also became apparent that Vladimir Putin has expressly ordered attacks against Ukrainian civilians. As millions of Ukrainians, most of them women and children, flee west – some 6.7million refugees have fled across the border into neighbouring European countries – apartment buildings, hospitals, cultural centres, and other civilian infrastructure were (and still are) attacked indiscriminately. 

Over half a year later, the war rages on, yet it has faded from the front pages of the newspapers. Without the shocking photography emerging from Bucha, the site of a large-scale massacre of defenseless civilians, or from the bombing of a maternity ward in Mariupol, support for Ukraine would likely be less pronounced than it is. A new initiative created by Ukrainian photographer Kateryna Radchenko, British photographer Christopher Nunn, and Canadian photographer Donald Weber called The Information Front seeks to ensure that the Ukrainian cause prevails. Nunn and Weber have had a long history working in Ukraine. “The conversation that Chris and I were having centred on how we actually contribute in some way,” Weber tells me. “Given that we are pseudo citizens of the country and have a long [working] history there. For me, it was the notion of contribution from afar.”

© Alexander Chekmenev.
© Alexander Chekmenev.
© Alexander Chekmenev.

Nunn and Weber teamed up with Kateryna Radchenko, a photography curator from Odesa who runs the festival Odesa Photo Days. Following a number of conversations, the trio decided that it should be a newspaper. “One thing I did notice with the photojournalism coming out of Ukraine, certainly in the first few weeks [of the war], was the explicit violence that it was capturing,” Weber says. “Chris came up with the idea of a newspaper. A newspaper is immediate, it’s there, it’s viable. A newspaper can also be distributed [easier].” The hope is that the platform will also encourage people to join in. He adds: “The idea is that you can buy multiple copies, and then hopefully hand them out. For that, we offer a discount.” Bulk orders of 10, 25, 50 and 100 are available from the website.

Unlike the newspapers produced by Poland’s Archive of Public Protests, created for a domestic audience as an ephemeral object of activism (it includes slogans geared towards political demonstrations), The Information Front’s target audience is international and its main goal is to maintain the visibility of the war in Ukraine. The profits from newspaper sales will go to Depth of the Arts Fund, an organisation founded in 2014 that, in its own words, is “engaged in cultural networking: we create events and conditions for people and ideas to meet”.

However, The Information Front does not feature just any photojournalism. It specifically focuses on the work of Ukrainian photographers, including Alina Smutko, Pavel Dorogoy and Nazar Furyk, many of whom were unknown outside of their home country before the war. “There are more established photographers [included in the newspaper],” Weber says, “but also young photographers. There are photographers who aren’t necessarily photojournalists but found themselves in this situation where they realised, ‘This is my home. Therefore, I’m going to document it with my camera’. 

As the Ukrainian nation rallied around its beleaguered president Volodymyr Zelensky, a large number of Ukrainian photographers of various backgrounds started documenting what was happening around them. In effect, their cameras became weapons in an information war, which so far has seen Russia’s clumsy propaganda outmanoeuvred by Ukrainian wit and determination. Very early on, Zelensky himself galvanized his nation with a video of himself and his senior staff, declaring: “We are still here”. 

Weber continues: “There’s also [a geographical spread] of photographers from all over the country. We have people from Kharkiv, Donbas, Chernihiv, Kyiv of course, Lviv and Odesa.” The result is a selection of almost two dozen photographers representing a united front, though the total number was limited by the available budget. Weber adds: “We wanted to pay each photographer.” The first newspaper was printed in June this year. The plan is for the second one to come available this late autumn.

There are also exhibitions in the works, including at the Noorderlicht Festival in the Netherlands from 10 September to 04 December 2022. There, the plan is to “step back and look at Ukrainian identity through photographic history,” Weber says. “[It starts] in the 1960s and 70s with the obvious candidates, [Boris] Mikhailov and the Kharkiv school. From there, it moves forward to today to understand how Ukrainian identity has been [probed] in artistic practice [for years].” It is a departure from the purely photojournalistic focus of the first issue of The Information Front. “The idea is to say that Ukraine is a nation.” Weber reminds us. “It’s not like some weird appendage that has grown off of Russia. It’s a self identifying nation that has been around for centuries.”

© Mikhail Palinchak.

Speaking with Weber, I couldn’t help but notice that for him (as much as for Nunn and obviously Radchenko), the war is personal. “I have friends and colleagues who put down their cameras and joined the war,” Weber tells me. “Maks Levin, a photographer, was killed (Levin died on assignment in Kyiv in March 2022, aged 40). These lives have been irrevocably changed through an act of imperialistic aggression to essentially wipe Ukraine from the map.” In many ways, it’s unfortunate that it would take a war to have larger parts of the West recognise the real character of Russia under Putin and for the world of photography to discover the breadth and richness of Ukrainian photography. We needn’t be having a conversation about whether or not photographs can change the world. But they can certainly create connections between us, to create solidarity and understanding for one another. “To contribute one little grain of sand to the recognition of Ukrainian photography…”, Weber says, “I’d be happy with that.” Now, it is up to us to look at what The Information Front has to offer.

Slava Ukraini!