The Shell-Strewn Road (pictured) had impressed many visitors of the 18th Den’s International Exhibition. Recently, during Den’s Days in Vinnytsia, this photographic work was presented at Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University. The author of this symbolic and historical photo is Yurii Velychko, fighter of the ATO who is addressed to by a truthful nom de guerre: “Photographer.” He is a military correspondent of the 46th separate battalion of special purpose “Donbas-Ukraine.” For two years he has been taking photos of the war, creating a visual history album of the wartime Ukraine.
“I am not a professional photographer,” Yurii immediately admits. “When I was young, photography was just a hobby of mine. I started taking photos when I bought a quality camera. But, to be honest, it was the war that made me take this activity seriously. I went to the war, and I took the camera with me. At first I photographed everything I saw, for everything there was unlike anything I saw before. Then I concentrated on my comrades-in-arms, I recorded their daily lives – military and everyday activity” (The Day wrote on Yurii Velychko’s military photos in No. 68 of November 15, 2016. In particular, the article mentions the photos awarded at the 18th Den’s International Photo Contest: Nom de Guerre “Pianist” and Nom de Guerre “Gal”).
Each of Yurii’s photos is a kind of a different story about fighters, destroyed cities, unsown land, people’s fates broken by grief. “They show cars, on which the battalion, having completed its mission, leaves Krymske; they show a fighter from Donetsk, who defends the homeland together with his wife; they show Shevchenko’s Kobzar, which one of the fighters had just been reading,” says the photographer. “I chose The Shell-Strewn Road to send to Den’s photo contest not by chance. It shows the outermost street at the almost razed Marinka, completely covered with shell casings from projectiles. I made this photo past summer. I wanted them in Kyiv to see the truthful portrayal of what is happening at the frontline. This road is our last point of defense, ‘ground zero’ or even less than ‘zero,’ beyond that are only separatists... The photo doesn’t show any people, but it has a profound meaning. This is a visual evidence of fierce fighting on behalf of Ukrainian fighters who keep their daily defense against the enemy artillery, often in an unequal battle.”
Since the start of the war, “Photographer” has created a huge archive and his own visual style – all his pictures are not staged, they are alive. The first thing that catches the eye is the fighters’ expressions – they are anxious or vigorous, joyful or desperate. Yurii is able to catch the moment in its most decisive second. And all that because he doesn’t let go of the camera even during the attacks.
Velychko’s best works are going to be presented soon in Lithuania. This will be his first presentation abroad; it is organized with the assistance of Lithuanian journalist Vytautas Bruveris. According to the comments on Bruveris’s Facebook publication, Lithuanians are looking forward to meeting with the Ukrainian photo correspondent and his works. The artist himself, an ATO veteran with nom de guerre “Photographer,” is modest in saying that he doesn’t seek popularity, but simply wants to show the Baltic countries the real life of Ukrainian military.
The photo exhibition of the Ukrainian frontline photographer Yurii Velychko will take place in Vilnius on March 15 at 17:30 at the National Library.