EXHIBITION - "Love and War in Ukraine"
Euromaidan: the resistance movement that turned into a revolution in February 2014. Of the hundreds of thousands of people present in the streets and squares of Kiev, hundreds were photographers. Ranging from representatives for Magnum and Associated Press to amateurs with cell phones.
The number of photo books depicting the current situation already stretches over ten. Two have reached worldwide recognition. Barricade by Julia Polunina-But and Euromaidan by Vladyslav Krasnoshchok and Sergey Lebedinski. The three photographers are all members of UPHA (Ukrainian Photographic Alternative), a young and independent organization whose members compose the large part of this exhibition.
Love and War in Ukraine presents the contemporary Ukrainian photo scene seen from two different angels: On one side, it's an exhibition about a generation that is the product of Glasnost, shaped in a post Soviet society, a generation that points its eyes to the west when not pointing them inwards or backwards. This goes for Sergey Malnitchenko and his young male bodies. Presented in a series that grasps for the idea of the raw and steroid injected athlete, shaped by the communist machinery. Simultaneously addressing his inspiration to the American cult documentary Pumping Iron. Working as a further example is the vision of the east European drunk. In Yurko Dyachyshyns version exemplified through a dry and shrunken body that becomes an obvious nod to the classic motifs of Boris Mikhailov as well as the street photography of London and New York. Or the stream of sketches and pictures by Oksana Bulyk. Negotiating the viewer's expectations on the female body through pure violence and sexuality.
What we are witnessing is a generation that carelessly digs around in the thematic self-image of Ukraine. Having placed one foot in the society of their own nation, and the other in the reproduced stereotypes and worn-out depictions, carried by the surrounding world.
On the other side, this generation is directly threatened, forces wanting to take control of its influences and rights. As Ukraine has transformed into a country in a war-like situation that has been present since the protests in Kiev escalated.
And in between, the echo of this exhibition is located. The eternal points of reference: the era before the October revolution, the Soviet years: the 60ths and 70ths when modern Ukrainian photography found its distinctions and features. As seen in Evgeny Pavlovs play with the clear and burning colors of propaganda. Or Krasnoshchoks reckless scribble on the portraits of the early 20th century. Pictures that shows how easily history is defined and reinterpreted in the hands of the political power.
International Photobook Festival, Stockholm 2015
Photo: Valentine Bo