It’s been a year since the full-scale war started
It seems there’s been February all year long. I don’t remember summer 2022, or what the autumn was like in Kyiv. I didn’t notice how seasons changed: news and work were my only focus.
In 2022, we had to cancel the eighth edition of the Odesa Photo Days Festival and change the course of our activities. In February-June, we worked as an alternative volunteer agency to distribute photos from Ukraine, taken by Ukrainian photographers: we provided photos to international publications and exhibitions, promoted photographers working on the front line and supported them financially. We tried to facilitate contacts between international agencies and Ukrainian artists, and we did everything possible to tell the world about the situation in Ukraine through photography. It was important for us to create a trustworthy platform for photographers and international institutions.
At the same time, like everyone else, we tried to adjust to the new life in Ukraine with air alerts, Russia’s missile strikes, panic attacks triggered by everything, as well as power outages and disabled communication. All these things have become abnormally normal in our everyday life.
In September, our team launched the Mentoring Programme for young adults. On the one hand, our aim was to support young Ukrainian photographers and provide them with basic knowledge on photographic storytelling. On the other, we were interested in the stories of young people, who found themselves hostages of war, experienced emotional stress, had to relocate and adjust to the new life, became volunteers, and took pictures of their daily experience and activities. We invited five mentors to participate in the programme: Mikhail Palinchak, Valeriy Miloserdov, Alina Smutko, Taras Bychko and Igor Chekachkov. Over two months, they provided online support to young photographers and helped them to develop their projects. The programme resulted in forty projects covering such topics as volunteering, the impact of the war, inner feelings and the artists’ perception of the daily life in Ukraine.
These stories are incredibly poignant and important; they are different from the work of professional photographers. Firstly, young artists are not worried about “doing something wrong”, they eagerly experiment with the form and don’t pursue perfect composition or even colouration, when conveying their thoughts and feelings. Secondly, they aren’t afraid that their project will remain unpublished, or will not be accepted by an editor or a viewer, because the stories are important for themselves in the first place. That’s why we value them so much, the honest, sometimes naive voices of those who are experiencing this war and who will rebuild the country in the future.
The war isn’t over, and we continue focusing on photography and supporting photographers from Ukraine. The format of our festival has changed, but we continue doing everything we can to spread the word about Ukrainian photographers and to support everyone who needs our competency or contacts.