Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“We have ‘written’ a photo history of this country”

8 November, 2016 - 11:05
Photo by Vitaly Nosach

In spite of all the Internet possibilities, I keep on the cover of my Facebook page a photograph, perhaps not of the best quality, which shows a part of our family. This picture is very precious to me. At a time when Facebook has become the “the family album” of the Universe, I decided to share what is a personal treasure for me. The world is now in the process of a very important photo circulation, when people are learning to distinguish the essential from the superficial. There are photos in the Internet, which get millions of views. This makes the world rally more closely around value-related things.

There are various schools of photography. When I came to journalism, I brought my vision into the work I do. Working as deputy editor-in-chief and politics section editor at Kievskiye Vedomosti, I also paid very much attention to photography. We were the first in the young, revived, Ukrainian journalism to place a picture over the whole page. And it is common knowledge that I also pay a great deal of attention to meaningful photos in Den. If you have an opinion or an emotion and know how to express it, this form can be a very suitable instrument for putting it across. Let us recall the original reason why our International Photography Competition was launched. Getting ready to celebrate the newspaper’s second anniversary in 1998, we decided to adorn the exhibition hall at Ukrainian House with the best photographs printed on the pages of Den. For it is part of the newspaper, an absolutely equal, and sometimes even dominant, partner of the text. The next idea was to organize a photo competition whose winners will be receiving awards during the celebration of Den’s next anniversary. This year we hold the 18th Photo Competition.

Recently the editorial office hosted a roundtable with experts – rather mature and interesting economists. After the event, they wished to communicate with me a little more. We spoke about our books, and one of them asked in a somewhat arrogant manner: “What’s this for?” He said that nobody reads thick books now. I am prepared for this kind of retorts, I know that this happens. I answered: “Of course, there are people who do not read thick books. We publish for them, for example, a glossy magazine. But if they are not prepared to read even glossies, let them go and look at photographs.” Obviously, this looked like a slightly pert reply. But, in reality, being able to “read” photographs is also a talent. I very often make sure of this. I tried out the following technique even in our Summer School of Journalism – I took a photo and asked: “What do you see on it?” For one must have a proper level to “read” a picture, a reflection, and the ability to think critically and express oneself on this occasion.

One must constantly reread Orwell. He said that totalitarianism mostly ruins memory and cause-and-effect relations. I will add: also critical thinking and the capability of free reflection. We came out of that society. To renew and strengthen a person and to make him or her regain these qualities, all kinds of “weapons” are needed. We need strong texts, clear thoughts, and a meaningful photo that works with the human soul at the innermost level. In the course of 18 photo exhibits, I have often seen people approach one and the same picture three times, peer into it, discover every time some new extraneous features and layers, and then phone their friends, saying: “Put everything aside and run here. You can’t help seeing this!” I want the newspaper to create this kind of photography, and we are also trying to exhibit this very kind of photographs. Of course, it is not always so, for the flow of life provides different choices. But still, even with the choice we have, we are trying to form a very high-quality “photo menu.” I would like people to feel that we are trying to gain the best for them.


…To tell the truth, we have written a photo history of this country. Indeed, there is no special museum of photography in Ukraine. But the newspaper Den has one. It exists in our archive, it is updated from time to time on our website, it can be found on the newspaper’s pages. We have made several albums. To start with, look at the first album, the first photo. It shows the way Ukraine was. The girl who stands on the road is so openhearted, naive, and graceful. This photo was taken by Valerii Miloserdov in Luhansk in 1995. The next pictures show the transformation of this image in the course of time. It is our chances, our experience, and our losses. Naturally, we have changed very much. And we have a photo – a “notch” – at each stage.


It is like in Ukrainian fairytales: whenever a character went deeper into the woods, he threw little stones over the shoulder so that he could come back. I have always known that we are going into a “thick forest.” To come out on a “clear path,” one must look at these photos – the “little stones” that we have left. For example, we have a fantastic picture, Third Eye, about the Maidan of 2014.


Or take the photo Vitamin of Freedom – a squashed orange against the backdrop of a line of policemen. We have The Maidan’s Eyes which shows the face of a suffering woman. Her eyes express all the sorrows of the Ukrainian people. I clearly predicted that that revolution would not be successful because the people who stood on the Maidan’s stage – for the first and the second time – were absolutely unable to do what the people expected them to. They were from a different “breed” and pursued a different goal. Our photo depicted this. And, of course, the photo we printed on the first page before the tragic shooting in February 2014. In other words, we have, among other things, a photo history, a photo bank, and photo evidence, as well as photo recipes, photo forecasts, and photo relaxations. It is a photo album which we, as all the people, like to look over together.

I like to get back to photos. It is a very valuable “extract” with a powerful, and even everlasting, effect. We have long been holding a competition that is no less significant than World Press Photo, but it is not just the pictures of disasters but “excavations” to find the sources of strength and show this country at different stages – Ukraine is beautiful, strong, and has deep roots. Yes, Ukraine has problems, and it should learn to overcome them. This is also a leitmotif of our photo exhibit. It “designs,” in a sense, the country we want to see in the future.

With love, Larysa IVSHYNA