I couldn’t give any other answer to the situation happening in Ukraine except for this one. The feeling that I was missing something very important, which I had since the beginning of the protests in Kiev, made me come and look at the Maidan with my own eyes. This place had a unique quality – being there, you could find what you were looking for. Nationalists, or so called “banderovtsi”, making the coup d’etat attempt, or a new generation of Ukrainians, rose against the lawlessness of the government.
I was born in the USSR. Ukraine became independent when I entered schooling. The Dusk of the ninetieth, the social fall, ended with the “stability” of the two thousandth. The bottom was reached and the “Night” came. The Night mixed the soviet past and uncertain present, the people became socially passive. I started to photograph Night in Kharkiv, in the east Ukraine a few years ago. Photographs I made visually fell out from the context of the time; they left the feeling of something already seen in the past. This apparent repeat of the history showed the present time in a surrealistic way. The research I make by means of photography has a goal – I’m looking for the self-identification, I was looking for my homeland.
At Maidan I found what I was after – hundreds of thousands Ukrainian people looking for the Dawn.
Sergiy Lebedynskyy was born in 1982 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. In 2010 he collaborated Vladyslav Krasnoshok and Vadym Trykoz and founded the photographic group “Shilo”, continuing traditions of the Kharkiv School of Photography (Boris Mikhailov, Evgeny Pavlov, Juri Rupin etc.), known by its bold and critical view on the social processes in ex-USSR. He holds a PhD. in engineering and works as a freelance photographer.
29 thoughts on “Sergiy Lebedynskyy – Euromaidan (2014)”
This is an amazing set of photographs evoking terror and fear in a symbolic way depicting all war..
i rarely jump in here on comments on essays…i would rather get your opinions , but on this one i just had to jump
Overuse of the same and or similar preset gives too much of the same same impression with the images losing impact as an essay. Three or five images would have been sufficient.
I really like the photographs; as an essay they give a powerful view of the uncertainty and chaos of the situation. I too am not a fan of the preset used, however. Sergiy, did you use a mobile phone to take them? I find the preset obscuring the information contained in the photographs and I really want to see what’s going on. I realise that such technique adds atmosphere; and it really works: but just too much detail is lost, for me. Just for me.
It looks scary; if you go back, stay safe. Congratulations on being published here.
I agree with Imants and Mike R. The preset used obscures detail and, by making the whole series of pictures so uniform, lessens the impact by taking us away from reality. indeed, the impact of the reality going on in these pictures is so strong in itself that “straight photography” would have a greater visual impact. For example, I would have no problem with rather high contrast if the detail was still clear: the mood would still be dark. The darkness imposed by the darkness of the preset detracts from the vision, in my view.
AS Mitch states what isn’t present in the images is the hope the people had ………….. it was not all despair. But then again I am not surprised it is just following the doom and gloom culture that persists among photographers when the ex Eastern block nations are portrayed
What is the preset you talk of?
A part of wants this to be medium speed B/W pushed way beyond the edge(say 12800) wet printed and stained in tea or selenium. That would make me very happy as, like David, I find these images fantastic.
Viewing these I feel like some visitor from another time who has happened upon some faded old newsprint in a box in the attic of a ruined house. Faded and grainy but nonetheless radiating feeling.
If these turn out to be some sort of ‘Crapstagram’ filter overlaid onto digital files I will still like the images themselves, but will certainly feel disappointment that they are fraudulent.(VERY hard to tell on the web, but I hope they are what they seem to be)
By fraudulent I do not mean in the intent of the image itself or its setup, but rather the means of production. To make images above in the analog way described takes skill and craft and care and time.
Pushing a button on a phone or a computer that ovelays some sort of ‘Steiglitz lomo look’ onto a file does not. Maybe in this day and age of facsimile living thats okay for most people. I fully intend to remain not most people.
It’s interesting that such a strong essay has invoked such a response about the technique used instead of the content.
The content is wrapped up in the treatment. The artist statement supports this.
As for the ‘content’ I have been following events closely on al=jazeera, russia today, the BBC and sky. All have their own propoganda bias (al-jazeera is pretty objective mainly) and ways of presenting the ‘story’. This does not ‘feel’ like a content essay in the sense that those news channels are presenting their content. This is a subjective interpretation of what the events and situations mean for the photographer and in that sense I believe the treatment and discussion of the treatment used to make these images is as important as the objective content of the images. More so for me.
John the repetition of borders give the treatment away
The “filterization” of photography continues. We seem to be doomed to fuzzy, grainy, tinted “effects” photos. Sigh.
I’m naming this the “Pushing 2475 Recording film in Dektol” filter.
I liked how the tint and processing was used to emphasize how these were scenes we’ve seen before and how the seemingly endless repetition made it especially sad, not just for Ukrainians but for humans as a species.
Until reading Gladdy’s comment, it hadn’t occurred to me that Lebedynskyy might have used a wet process. Although I generally dislike the typical filters so many people use on Instagram or whatever, I am somewhat like most people in that I am open to a variety of visual styles. I really don’t see the digital processes as significantly more fraudulent than color films that were developed with different color palettes or levels of graininess or chemical processes that end in nice looking, but clearly altered, versions of the reality that was in front of the photographer. Black and white in and of itself is as fraudulent as fraudulent gets and tinting it yellow or purple or red to achieve a particular aesthetic purpose doesn’t make it any more so. The questions I ask myself when I see photographers get away from journalistic standards of depicting reality concerns their purpose and effectiveness. In this case, I there is a clearly stated purpose and I think the processing was effective in communicating that.
Furthermore, it’s not entirely clear that a single preset or filter was used. More likely a combination of techniques were employed to achieve just the look the photographer was after. On the downside, I’ve always found the fake borders cheesy but I reluctantly gave that a pass here because of the photographer’s purpose. But if, as imants says, they repeat, then I’d say that’s a faux pas that should be fixed.
Very, very, very very strong images. The effect, whether done digitally or wet, enhances the vision of the photographer as stated in his final sentence:
“At Maidan I found what I was after – hundreds of thousands Ukrainian people looking for the Dawn.”
As for the method he used, digital presets or wet, people do tend to use the tools of their time and now we are in a time where the tools of old and new still overlap. My original reaction to presets, Instagrams and all was pretty much the same as voiced here by John Gladdy. It was David Alan Harvey who convinced me that they now have as legitimate a place in the world of photographic image making as do the tools of old. Plus, in my own experimentation with them, I have discovered that it is nowhere near as easy as some might think to come up with a look you want and to keep that look consistent over a large batch of images. The same filter interprets completely different on different images with different values, even images shot within seconds of each other.
The same filters can be combined and manipulated in an infinite number of ways to change the look and effect. If the artist did use a filter, as it appears, I am very impressed not only with the look but the consistent application of it – this is no easy thing to do.
And I’ve got to hand it to Imantz on this one. Indeed, there is repetition of borders. It is not at all obvious at first viewing as some real variation has been applied to the different repetitions, but it is there.
Is this valid photojournalism? For a news photographer out shooting for Newsweek or Time and trying to get as close to the impossible literal truth as possible, maybe not. But as an artist making a statement he believes important, Sergiy Lebedynskyy seeks to externalize his own internal vision in a way that enables others to see it, or at least get a good sense of it. Whatever tools he has used, be they of old conventions, new, or combination of both, I think he has succeeded.
Maybe one drawback is that a viewer who sees this without the benefit of the text might believe he is looking at something from the faded past rather than the momentus present.
I now agree twice in a row with John Gladdy which is historic i believe ha ha….Jim Powers of course I love most of all, and it is great to be sort of reunited with you guys….I am sure you know I am too damned busy and just do not have as much time for commenting as I once did…however, when I get the chance I am here for you to use however you want…welcome back….
The 28 images of the events at the Maidan are visually strong images, but they bring little new to me. Because of the “aged look” the images remind me of pictures taken in 1914. So unfortunately the essay gets more of an entertainment character rather than providing me with new information.
Many people fear an escalation of the conflict in the Ukraine and because the issue is very complex, I feel it is important to show background information that the tv or words cannot bring. This is my demand from photographers now.
Hope peace will come soon to the Ukraine!
Respect to Sergiy! Stay safe!
MW. I did not mean fraudulent in the sense of using the actual ‘thing’ portrayed as the baseline for comparison.(in which case all representational art is fraudulent,and your use of this is a classic reductio ad absurdian argument). I meant it as referring to The Technique and Construction of The Work.
I can easily make a frame of ‘Guernica’ with my Dslr, tweak it a bit in potatoshop and print it onto some funky canvas….but that sure as shit dont count as painting …..and it dont make me picasso.
But stick it in a frame and put it on a wall for people to view and a hell of lot of people will say “WOW! Thats really neat.you should put it on your facebook page.” (or some such nonsense)
Hope that clears things up.
DAVID. I will try and make sure it doesnt happen again. Sorry. :)
Not only i do hope there will be no war (civil or global) I hope the fear and insecurity will be quickly buried.
The visual point of view is what makes this work stand out and that’s what matters. Please refer to the latest DAH Phototips!
Great serie about Maidan square. 08, 10, 12 and 23 are images from WWI 1914-1918. On July 28th is the 100th anniversary of the beginning. It would be interesting to do something with the whole bunch of images.
In France, they will “conmemorate” this day showing how was the life inside the trenches…
thank you for watching this essay and for your kind replies. Dear David, thank you a lot for publishing it!Just found time to register at Burn and to give a few comments on this.
The technique used is the dark room process – lith printing on the old soviet paper. I always become a unique print and a DOCUMENT, due to the almost uncontrolled developing. This feeling of the document can not be transfered via the monitor, unfortunately.
The journalists have done a great job at Maidan. It would be senseless to come and make hundred more “newpaper”-pics. This essay is a part of a big art work, which my colleagues from Shilo and I are doing since 2010. We observe changes in our country and the social processes. What is happening now in Ukraine is a possible turning-point and our art work is how we support our land.
kind regards, Sergiy
stunning series about a true story transmitted in a different but powerful way. talking from a safe and nice home place is easier than being there. my respect sergiy.
Well there go all the experts opinions down the kazi. very glad to hear this.
Would happily hang one of these on my wall. Great work, and a nice use of an old technique to tell a story.
Thank you for your explanation, Sergiy. Even though I would have happily accepted this as valid had it been done digitally, I, too, am glad to learn you did it by traditional means. Maybe some day I will have to set up a new darkroom and some wet work and experimenting again myself. Great job – shooting and processing.
Nice to be wrong, but the repetition of technique still over awes content.
eerie… grimey… atmospheric…
inspiring. I like it.
Replying to Gladdy, when I wrote above that it didn’t occur to me that the photos may have been created with a wet process, I didn’t mean the opposite; that I thought they were created digitally. Although once I thought about it in reaction to comments, I shared the assumption that they were digital; on the first few viewings, I didn’t think about it at all. The reason for that is because I just don’t much care what processes were used to create something. I’m mostly only interested in the result.
Along those same lines, the issue of difficulty comes into play; the idea being that a work of art that is more difficult to create is better than one that is significantly easier. The best retort to that kind of thinking I’ve heard came in a conversation I had with a professional guitar player shortly after Lou Reed’s death. In the context of a larger conversation, he’d commented that Lou was not a virtuoso guitarist. I replied that he should watch the video of Reed and John Cale’s live performance of “Songs for Drella” and see if he still didn’t think Lou was a virtuoso guitarist. His reply was that he had seen it live himself and had watched the video many times and that any professional guitarist could fairly easily play the same notes that Lou played. The difference, he said, the thing that made Lou great wasn’t that he played notes no one else could play; it was that he played notes that no one else ever thought to play.
That, as I see it, is the crux of art. Same thing with the impressionists, the fauves, the modern artists and no telling how many other artists in how many other disciplines.
Same thing with photography. At the highest levels, it’s about seeing things that no one else sees, not about using processes with such a high level of difficulty that few others can use them. That’s why in so many ways I prefer digital and digital to film. In either case, there is no way to avoid starting out with a preset. The film’s characteristics (Kodachrome warm, Ektachrome cool, Velvia vivid, etc.) are effectively presets. The little picture you see on the back of your camera comes from a manufacturer’s preset. When you open a file, raw or otherwise, in Adobe Camera Raw or any other RAW processor, you are seeing the result of a preset. So you can’t get away from presets. But you can, and I think this is what many of the better artists do, is to create their own unique presets that best communicate their vision. Of course that’s a lot easier to do with digital than with chemicals, but again, so what?
Getting back to this work, I think Lebedynskyy has done an excellent job of creating a unique preset, or we could call it an instrument, that hits notes no one else, or at worst few and far between have thought to play. Thanks and congratulations.
Very strong work! I think the darkroom technique you chose works perfectly here, really helping to accentuate what was clearly a dark, dangerous, frantic, and unpredictable situation. Although I’m not a big fan of tinting, you at least chose to be aesthetically consistent from beginning to end which makes the whole thing work for me. Great job, Sergiy; Keep it up, stay safe!
— Dave I.
The treatment does evoke an earlier time, I think it gives up some power as a witness to the present because of its heavy-handedness. I suppose it’s a personal work more than a reportage (not that the two can’t co-exist). I just re-read your statement: ‘showed the present time in a surrealistic way’ … reminded me completely of what I felt looking at Eric Bouvet’s images from the same place. Weighty, present, monotonous and pedestrian, deadly and surreal.
A surreality revealed by straight-shot, digital pictures. I think we’ve come full circle!
Sergiy, I hope that you are keeping safe in your travels, and that there is some hope for the people of Kiev. I can’t even pretend to understand properly what’s happening there.
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