Of all the republics of the former U.S.S.R, Ukraine is one of the most important. With a population of 47 million and a territory as large as France, Europe’s ‘new neighbor’ remains crucial for both Russia and the West. In addition to its natural resources, heavy industries and access to the Black Sea, Ukraine is a major transit country for Russia’s oil and gas pipelines. Although independent since 1991, Ukraine has yet to form its national identity. Like many post-Soviet states, it is in the throes of an identity crisis.
In order to better understand contemporary Ukraine, the nonprofit organization Altemus commissioned a team of photographers (Sputnik Photos) and young Ukrainian writers, to travel the country and capture its ethos. Their photographs and stories reveal a country caught between two worlds – ‘communism and liberalism, tradition and modernity’, but also a country rich in diversity and resilient in spirit. From the Donbas coal mines to Carpathian mountain villages, the Crimean peninsula to the capital of Kyiv, they bear witness to a country in full flux, on a journey to find itself and its place in the world.
Lead Sponsors: Fondation Vidrodgenia & International Visegrad Fund
Project Photo Editor: Maria Mann, Director of Business Development, European Press Photo Agency.
Concept and Project Manager: Christine Medycky, Director Altemus
Sputnik Photos is an international collective of photojournalists, founded by alumni of the 2004 Altemus Leadership Training Programme. Its members, young, professional photographers from Eastern Europe, specialize in investigating and documenting life in transitional democracies. The privileged perspective and insight of Sputnik photographers into their region, allows them to capture daily life as it really is, without the standard western clichés and preconceptions.
Photographs from the ‘Ukrainian Journey’ documentary project have been published in international publications (Le Monde Magazine, Polityka, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, EARTH Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, The Bulletin, Credit Suisse Banking Magazine and Ogonyk Magazine) and have won awards in the Czech Press Photo Competition (First Prize), Picture of the Year International Competition (Second Prize) and the Self-Publishing Book Competition – BLURP (Grand Prize).
Andrej Balco (1973, Slovakia) Freelance photographer based in Bratislava. Andrej holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Trnava University and a Bachelors Degree of Photography from the Institute of Creative Photography at the Silesian University in Opava, Czech Republic. He has won a number of awards (Czech Press Photo, Mio Photo) and commissions ( IPRN/Dronginy Faces Project). His work has been featured at a number of festivals including the Noorderlicht Photo festival Behind Walls.
Antratsyt – Pipe Dreams
The city of Antratsyt in the Luhansk region is not far from the Russian border. Known for anthracite mining and the production of pipes and tubes, it has been especially hard hit by the economic crisis. A large percentage of the population lives close to or beneath the poverty line. People are obliged to take two jobs just to make ends meet.
Jan Brykczynski (1979, Poland) Freelance photographer based in Warsaw and Nairobi. Jan is a graduate of the University of Warsaw, the National School of Film, Television and Theatre (Lodz), and the FAMU Film School (Prague). His work focuses on documenting the post-communist transition in Eastern Europe and its effect on youth.
Carpathian Tales explores the lives of Bojko community. Jan’s photos capture a culture, way of life, and traditions that have remained unchanged over the centuries.
Ivan Kurinnoy (1981, Russia) Freelance photographer in Moscow. Ivan is a graduate of the Moscow State University School of Journalism. He works full time as a photojournalist for leading magazines and newspapers shooting mostly portraits, ‘soft’ news and travel stories. Ivan attended the Missouri Photo and the Eddie Adams Photo Workshops. His work has been featured exhibited in the Alex Lapin School Exhibition and has won first prize in the Silver Camera Moscow Photo Competition.
Sisters-in-Arms Ivan records the annual ‘pilgrimage’ of twin sisters Galina and Marina to the war memorial and May 9th Victory Parade in Kyiv. Each year the twin sisters, veterans of World War II, carry the portrait of their hero, Marshal Georgy Zhukov in the May 9 Parade.
Andrej Liankevich (1981, Belarus) Freelance photographer based in Minsk. Andrej studied Economics at the Belarussian State University and photography at the Caucasus Media Institute and has been invited to a number of prestigious photography master classes and workshops in Europe. He teaches photojournalism and works with Nasha Niva, an independent Belorussian newspaper.
Silence – Changing Demographics Every year almost 300 villages and hamlets are abandoned in Ukraine. Young people leave for school or in search of work in the big cities, leaving behind the elderly. Andrej visited the remaining residents, two sisters Anna and Kalina of a village inWestern Ukraine. In this isolated village only two things matter to the inhabitants: God and food.
Justyna Mielnikiewicz (1973, Poland)
Freelance photographer based in Tbilisi. Justyna started her career as a photographer with the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. In 2002 she moved to Georgia to work on a long term photo project about the country. The Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts has purchased a number of her photographs for their museum collection. In 2009, Justyna won second price in the World Press Photo Competition for her coverage of the conflict in South Ossetia and was named Canon’s Female Photojournalist of the Year. She had a solo exhibition at this year’s VISA Festival d’Images in Perpignan, France.
Crimea – Somewhere between Ukraine and Russia examines life in the autonomous region of Crimea and the delicate ethnic relations between the Crimean Tatars, the Cossacks and Ukrainians.
Rafal Milach (1978, Poland) Freelance photographer in Warsaw. Rafal is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts (Katowice) and the Institute of Creative Photography (Opava, Czech Republic). Since graduating he splits his time between editorial assignments and personal projects (The Grey, Disappearing Circuses, and Young Russia). He was invited to take part in the Joop Swart Masterclass and has won numerous prizes including a first place in the World Press Photo Competition (2008). Rafal’s photo essay on the Black Sea coastline won a Picture of the Year International Second Prize (Science/ Natural History Photo Story) as well as the Grand Prize (BLURP) for self published book.
In Ukraine by the Black Sea Rafal Milach journeyed along the coastline of the Black Sea between Odessa and Kerch in the winter time. His work Ukraine by the Black Sea examines the influence of history, memory and industry on the coastline and its inhabitants.
Janis Pipars (1978, Lithuania) Freelance photographer, editor and instructor. His documentary ‘Made in Zhlobin’ won second prize at the annual Latvian Photo competition. He participated in a special book project ‘This Day of Change’ organized by Courier Japan. His work has been exhibited at the World Press Photo Baltic Seminar Exhibition, the ZONA Documentary Project Exhibition, The Young Eastern European Photography Exhibition and the Second Press Photographers Festival Vilnius Photo Circle Exhibition.
A Student’s Life reveals student life in the city of Dnipropetrovsk. With its internationally acclaimed National Mining University and thirty other higher educational institutions, Dnipropetrovsk has one of the largest student populations in Ukraine. The demand for highly qualified personnel in heavy industry, guarantee consistently high enrollments.
Agnieszka Rayss (1970, Poland)
Freelance photographer based in Warsaw. Agnieszka studied Fine Arts at the Jagiellonian University in Crakow and the Sorbonne in Paris before switching to photography. She is interested in documenting the influence of western pop culture, as well as gender issues and sports in young democracies. Her work has been exhibited the Noorderlicht Photo festival and the Prague Biennale. She was a Hasselbad Masters Award finalist in 2009.
Born Free is a portrait of Ukrainians born on or after 1991, the year Ukraine became independent. This generation, born free into democracy and a market economy has no memory of communism. Their challenges, experiences, values and hopes differ radically from those of their parents and grandparents.
Filip Singer (1980, Czech Republic) Staff photographer with the European Press Photo Agency. Filip studied photography – graphic design in secondary school and started his professional career at 19. Filip has a particular fascination for Siberia and Central Asia. His main interest is how the environment is affecting and changing the lives of people in post Soviet countries. Filip has won numerous awards for his work including a first prize in the Czech Press Photo Competition 2009 for his photo essay on the Donbas coal miners.
Hearts of Coal The Donets Basin is the industrial heartland of Ukraine. A privileged class under communism, coal miners now struggle to survive in an industry fraught with challenges.