Photographers and Protagonists: Destinies in Common

Photographs depicting the lives of people. An exhibition of photographs taken by young IDPs – the participants of National Geographic Photocamp-Ukraine that took place this summer in Kharkiv – has been launched in AVEC Gallery.

Several thousand photos were made within a week by young people that moved to other regions of Ukraine from the Crimea and Donbas. Photocamp participants were trained by Nat Geo leading photographers. The guys learned about technical tricks but even more important was to be able to tell – using the language of photography – everyday stories of their compatriots. National Geographic experts came to select 50 photographs for the exhibition.

As they say, seeing is believing. By looking at the selected photos, one would realise that they were made by the people that both witnessed the stories and took them to their hearts. Here is a baby that will never see its father, for he was killed at the door of his own house. Here is an elderly man taking care of his daughter. The war deprived the girl of home and simple pleasures of life. War will probably leave a permanent imprint on those people. But who can stop life? Here are little girls all dressed up and dancing at their friend’s birthday party. Here is a little boy planning to take a fishing trip. And an eldrely man looking warily at the city that gave him shelter.

Yulia Balka, a participant, considers the experience and information received during the photocamp to be of great value. She now perceives angle in a different way and knows how to make quality photos with a camera on her mobile phone. Information on interview techniques and intercation with people were of equal importance, according to Yulia. “It is difficult to establish a contact with a subject and to make people want to share. But that is what we did,”she confesses.

Yulia left the home city of Donetsk for Kyiv. The girl explais that she was ready for that decision. For that reason moving home was not that stressful. In her selected image Yulia captured a two-year-old IDP girl Nastya from the family of believers that are now living in the village of Kapitolivka near Izium.

“You live and hrough the stories and play them through in your mind thinking of your own life,” the photographer says. “We understood those people without extra explanations and details, because we are just like them. We were looking into their eyes and saw our own reflexion.”

It is difficult to say when the professional and the personal became intertwined. However, Photocamp participants did live through the stories of their subjects. The photographers donated clothes and photographs to Station Kharkiv’s hostel and created an aid page for a sick IDP boy.

– Almost half of all selected images were made in Izium and the Oblast, – says Marina Alfyorova – the director of a volunteer center in Izium. These images captured the people with amazing destinies. Each of the protagonists could be talked about for hours. And those people opened up and were sincere in their conversations with the authors. I believe the pain will suside with time and we are doing our best to help the process.”

The exhibition and National Geographic Photocamp Ukraine was made possible with the support of USAID’s Ukraine Confidence Building Initiative (UCBI) project together with International Institute of Regional Media and Information (Kharkiv) and Vision Workshops (USA).

This fall the photos will be taken to seven more Ukrainian cities, where the exhibition will be hosted by different art centers and galleries, including the premises of Lviv City Hall.


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