My book Masks of the Holodomor has been selected to take part in the Magnum Portfolio Review on Friday 28th June. The 30 photographers selected will be put into groups and assigned to one of the Magnum photographers who will be taking the sessions.
and David Alan Harvey.
I have my fingers crossed for Jonas group as he has done extensive work in Russia.
Landing in Kyiv was hell. My ears felt like they had blood pouring out of them, so there I was head in between my knees, tears streaming down my face, with a very kind Ukrainian man sat next to me, giving me tips on how to make it better.
I got ripped off by a taxi man….saw that coming a mile off…but made it to the Hostel safely and went to bed at 5.30pm as I had not slept in 3days and got up fresh as a daisy 15 hours later.
I was lucky enough to have a tour guide today, in the form of a very kind but slightly unlucky Canadian, Billy. He has lost (by this I mean stolen) his passport and cant get back home for another week! Bad for him but good for me, as without him today would have been very different.
We went for a walk in the rain to down town Kyiv, I had a meeting with the owner of Kyiv Post (newspaper in English) and owner J. Micheal was extremely kind. He has given me a contact and is willing to publish some of my work once it is complete. When the meeting was over, we decided to go for a walk around town but Billy remembered that a library close by had a small display of history at the back, so we head over.
I asked/signed to the lady at the desk if I am allowed to photograph the display and she agreed. Later she was asking questions but I did not understand, again Billy to the rescue and soon she understands what it is we are looking for and goes scurrying off. Returning with a small pile of books, all on Holodomor but also all in Ukrainian. She disappears again and comes back with some more books, one in english and there it was, my grandfathers images.
I got his Leica camera out and placed it next to the book, feeling very proud to be in this position and Billy swiftly explained to the librarian that this camera took that photograph, She seemed very impressed.
I was then shown around the town and when 4pm rolled around (time for my second meeting) I notice my phone was not working!!!!! AHHHHH This meeting is important to my work, and I have no choice but to stand this guy Sasha up….Gutted. So I jumped into the nearest gamers cafe and emailed my apologies. Hopefully I will meet with him tomorrow.
Must have walked a few miles and was a beautiful start to what I hope to be a very informative trip.
P.S what they say in travel guides about Ukraine seems to be a load of shit, yes people are a little rude but so am I if you look thick as beetroot. They are just like Londoners accept Ukrainian like to feed you up once they get you into their homes.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring…..
Thought it would help me organise my project by entering The Guardian competition, even if I don’t win I benefit….
A Look at Ukraine 80 Years After Holodomor
Throughout the 1920’s, Alexander Wienerberger, my great grandfather, was a political prisoner of war in Lubyanka Prison, Moscow. He was spared his life due to the fact he was a chemical Engineer specialising in explosives, and therefore deemed useful to the Stalinist work programme.
In total, Alexander spent fifteen years in Russia and Ukraine. Throughout this time he documented his experience through photography. He subsequently wrote the book Hart Auf Hart, 1939, (which roughly translates as ‘Hard Times’) and also had published other photographs of Holodomor, (the man-made famine, Ukraine, 1932-33’.) Alexander’s images are some of the few verified photographs that depict the man-made famine of this period, whereas many images purporting to be from this time, are more likely records of an earlier famine of the 1920’s.
My interest in these events started when I inherited Alexander’s Leica. After considerable research I now intend to travel to Kharkiv, and other parts of Ukraine, with the Leica first used by Alexander for his original documentation. This same camera will be used to photograph my travels in the region, some eighty years after that traumatic period, in order to compare the Ukraine my great grandfather would have witnessed with the Ukraine of today.
The camera is a significant component of this project and my relationship to a personal history. It is a physical link between Alexander’s intended depiction of truth – a mirror to the more pervasive but misleading propaganda that was so rife at that point in time; and the visual vernacular of the Ukraine today. It seems only fitting that the same Leica be used again to reveal, as with my grandfather, an individual’s journey and experience of a country in transition.
A part of this investigation into social and political change in Ukraine could potentially be aimed at orphan institutes and hospitals. The exact figures are not known, but many children residing in childrens homes are classed as mentally incapable and as such, have lost their right to an independent life. They are effectively owned by the state. A BBC documentary for television called Ukraine’s Forgotten Children (2012) revealed that a proportion of these “incapacitated” people, are of sound mind but are denied a voice to speak of their situation. Hospitals are sometimes poorly staffed, and children are left in bed unattended for long periods – a situation that has seen little or no change through successive Governments.
The main focus of my work is to photograph and provide some contemporary insights to life within Ukraine. I would like to investigate this report further, but it potentially places me in a situation that goes beyond reasonable risk, and I will need to decide the best course of action once I am in the country. However, by drawing attention to the country’s landscape, cities, people and culture, I hope to reveal, like my grandfather before me, the truth and reality of peoples lives.