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Overcoming despair

By Maria PROKOPENKO, photos by Mykola TYMCHENKO, The Day
8 November, 2016 - 11:56
The 18th International Photo Exhibition “Den-2016”: a “reading manual”

We were incredibly touched at the opening of our photo exhibition this year. The exhibition was the culmination of this newspaper’s 20th anniversary celebrations, and we had been in fact preparing for it for all these 20 years. Like pieces of colored glass, these photos make up a mosaic of independent Ukraine, showing this country as it was growing up, dreaming and getting disappointed, toiling, resting, and struggling.

The opening of the photo exhibition was labeled a major event by the media. The halls of the Lavra Gallery were crowded by journalists, politicians, scholars, and businesspeople. People pictured in the photos came as well, among them soldiers, students, and cadets. Emotions ran high as people cried, laughed, fraternized, kissed, and argued in front of particularly poignant photos. To lighten the mood, the event was accompanied by classical music pieces performed by the Anima quartet of Lysenko Kyiv Specialized Music Secondary Boarding School.

The public demand is there for the “Family Album of Ukraine,” which we have created. People appreciate our accents. The tragic, ironic, and joyful moments pictured in these photos reflect our life, which comes in different colors, but most importantly, it continues. The country is changing.

THE WINNER OF THE “WORLD THROUGH THE EYES OF CHILDREN” CONTEST, ANDRII TSYHANCHUK FROM CHERNIVTSI, RECEIVES THE AWARD FROM FIRST LADY OF UKRAINE MARYNA POROSHENKO

 

The first photo contest took place in 1999, when the independent Ukraine was just eight years old. To visualize the changes that have happened since, we have added to the exhibition a separate display of winners of previous contests. They range from a miner with a shoulder tattoo reading “Drive me, but know where to stop!” to a soldier with the “Freedom or death” tattoo. A photo of an orphanage sits side by side with the joyous Wedding for the Entire Village. A Maidan desperado’s portrait is shown beside those of judges who shyly peer into papers. If someone finds it hard to read voluminous books or analytical articles, we invite them to “read” photos instead.

THE GOLD OF EMOTIONS

The children’s photos always have more positive images, light and laughter in them. This year’s “World through the Eyes of Children” contest was won by 15-year-old Andrii Tsyhanchuk from Chernivtsi. By the way, he received the award from First Lady of Ukraine Maryna Poroshenko. When the first lady was selecting the winner, she was unable to choose among two works – A Regatta and I Have Golden Hair like Ears of Grain. And then it turned out that the two had the same author.

Tsyhanchuk is very serious and taciturn, but his pictures reflect a lot of joy of life. The young man has been doing photography for about a year and has already decided that he will become a professional photographer. He participates in our photo contest for the first time. His photography instructor Mykola was the one to suggest that he submit the works, and he helped to select them as well.

THE GOLDEN DEN PRIZE OF PRIZES WENT TO YEVHEN MALOLIETKA’S PHILOSOPHICAL PHOTO THE STARRY HEAVENS ABOVE US AND THE MORAL LAW WITHIN US AND THE GRAND PRIX WENT TO OLEKSII FURMAN’S CYCLE “LIFE AFTER THE INJURY”

 

Our youngest winner likes to do portraits. He says they come out the best. While at the exhibition, Tsyhanchuk stared a lot at the photos of soldiers, who were shown at the front as well as with their families. “I think I will also do such works when I grow up,” the lad told us.

A PHILOSOPHICAL ACCENT

Every work that wins the Golden Den Prize of Prizes always sends an important message to society. Let us recall that this award was established by Den in its capacity as the founder of the photo contest. This year’s Prize of Prizes went to Yevhen Malolietka’s philosophical photo The Starry Heavens above Us and the Moral Law within Us. The winner received an award specially created by the jewelry studio Hararuk and a gift certificate granting a free stay at the Bukovel tourist facility.

PHOTOGRAPHER NATALIA SHAROMOVA (PICTURED WITH HER SON) HAS BEEN TAKING PART AND RECEIVING PRIZES IN OUR COMPETITION FOR SEVERAL YEARS. THIS TIME NATALIA’S “HARVEST” IS SIX AWARDS!

 

“We awarded the Golden Den to the work that emphasizes: amid the dramatic events of our time, we must not forget the starry heavens above us and the moral law within us. We appreciate philosophers as well as photographers who take extraordinary and in-depth view of the world which involves implied meanings and overarching objectives,” Den’s editor-in-chief, founder and chairperson of the jury of the photo contest Larysa Ivshyna said when commenting on this choice.

Malolietka’s victory was not his first one. He was awarded the Prize of Prizes in 2012 for the work Help the Child. In 2013, the photographer received the Grand Prix of our photo contest for the picture Portrait against a Highland Backdrop. Each year, he submits to the contest a lot of different pictures, many showing the war in the Donbas, but they include sketches of civilian life and landscapes of exotic countries as well. Malolietka treats photography as a lofty art. During the awards ceremony, he said himself: “Den’s exhibition performs a very important function as it teaches people good taste in photo art.”

“WHAT WE MUST NOT FORGET”

The series Overcoming won the Grand Prix of Den’s 18th International Photo Exhibition. It consists of the four best works from Oleksii Furman’s cycle “Life after the Injury.” Incidentally, this series earlier won the Grand Prix of the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award. The cycle tells stories of Ukrainian soldiers who came home with serious injuries sustained at the front in the Donbas, and are now trying to return to normal life.

Furman came to the awards ceremony directly from a hospital where he visited one of the subjects of the project. “With this series, I wanted to show that the war was going on. New wounded boys enter hospitals as we speak,” the photographer said. “I want the public to see the stories of these people, the challenges they face every day, the superhuman efforts which the anti-terrorist operation veterans and their relatives have to make. They are great people. They are heroes of Ukraine.”

This year’s Grand Prix, a certificate for 25,000 hryvnias, was presented by the agricultural company Olhopil for the first time. “Den and its projects, including the photo exhibition, prepare people for the future. This is the 10th consecutive year that I visit the exhibition and support the photo contest. This ‘traveling gallery’ shows us everyday reality, joy, and sorrow. These pictures reflect things which we must not forget,” said Pavlo Kalenych, who is founder, owner, and director of Olhopil. “I have the honor to present the award to Oleksii Furman who is the author of the series Overcoming. These are very timely works. They are hard to view, but such is our life at present.”

Overcoming is a key concept for today’s Ukrainians. We have to overcome hardships, official stupidity, despair, many “betrayals” and our own flaws. We have to overcome it all and grow up. The Grand Prix-winning series has a metaphorical meaning, in addition to the literal one. After the age of “prosperous oligarchy,” the country is overcoming a severe trauma as it slowly recovers to develop in a healthy direction.

“DEN WORKS TO ENSURE THE SURVIVABILITY OF OUR SOCIETY”

Ihor KABANENKO, admiral, defense and security expert:

“First of all I want to congratulate Den and the entirety of your creative team on the 20th anniversary of the newspaper and wish you further success! Of course, your work, which aims to create a kind of synergy between the historical roots, the present and the future, is just what is needed by our society today. You serve a unifying purpose. I recently participated in a NATO conference, where we discussed, in particular, issues such as the ‘society’s survivability’ in a geopolitical turbulence, a ‘hybrid war’ imposed by Russia. And see, it turns out that internal linkages and social stability are very important in terms of neutralizing threats. Accordingly, Den makes a huge contribution to this field.

“The photo exhibition caused me to feel a lot of different emotions. This is on the one hand, while on the other, it offers information for consideration. These photos show snapshots of history, ranging from the young men who defend our land, independence, and sovereignty to politics of the highest level. These snapshots allow us to see where we are and to figure out how to move on. It is important for everyone, especially for those interested in the past and seeking to build a bright future in our country.”

“IT SHOWS UKRAINE THAT HOLDS UP THE SKY ABOVE US”

Iryna KLIUCHKOVSKA, director of the International Institute of Education, Culture and Diaspora Relations:

“When traveling here by train, I overheard a conversation between two young men who said: ‘We must get the hell out of Ukraine, because there is nothing to do here, it is mired in hopelessness, and life is unremittingly bad here.’ When I came to the photo exhibition, however, my soul started to sing, because here, one can see the real Ukraine. It shows Ukraine that holds up the sky above us. It includes ordinary people, like a granny who weaves baskets by hand and keeps our tradition, our heart and soul alive. It also includes the young Terestchenkos, who are pictured getting married, and their faces are glowing with joy. It is, after all, Petro Poroshenko’s wife, who lends a hand to a boy who is disabled physically, but not spiritually.

“Oleksii Ivanov’s portrait of Refat Chubarov made the greatest impression on me. The head of the Mejlis looks into space and his own mind at once. The whole tragedy of the Crimean Tatar people is reflected on the face of its leader. In that great calamity and woe which has befallen the Crimean Tatar people, it is still fortunate to have, by the grace of God, individuals who can lead the rest and rally them, who care about their people with every bit of their bodies and souls.

“In short, Den’s photo exhibition is a true oasis. I believe that it will spread to the whole of Ukraine. Den’s exhibition is an annual celebration of the national spirit. Each photo speaks of great goodness to us. The exhibition is too large to be comprehended all at once. But my first impression is that Ukraine exists, existed, and will exist. This photo exhibition is a spiritual victory for us as it strengthens us and serves as a good omen of our ultimate victory.”

“IT SHOWS HISTORY THROUGH IMAGES”

Heorhii KOVALENKO, priest, public figure, philosopher, and theologian:

“When you look at a photo, you see just a moment. Days and moments grow into years. But since Den turns 20 this year, we can speak of an entire era as well. The feeling of a historical perspective is with me all the time, as Den’s exhibition is a journey into the past. Even when artistic photos picture our days, it is not just a chronicle, but rather a history. These pictures had been selected before for publication in the newspaper.

“Of course, when you see some pictures, you cannot hold back emotions, as heart aches and tears well up at some points. Emotions are still alive in the photos, they stem from the history we are still living through. This is a selection of the best photos that have a symbolic dimension, create a certain image. It shows history through images instead of just making a factual record.”

“UNITY FOR VICTORY”

Ivan PIETUKHOV, president of Adamant Inc., chairman of the Public Association “National Assembly of Ukraine”:

“Den’s photo exhibition makes a very strong and even slightly scary impression. The country seems to be torn in half. On the one side, one can see fat, satisfied faces of all our wealthy politicians. On the other, it shows ordinary and often poor people as well as soldiers who protect our country. The latter, of course, are in uniform, but take a look at it: it is far inferior to that of the developed countries’ militaries. Neat appearance is certainly not the point of life. But the current gap between the so-called elite and the rest of the citizenry is clearly much too wide. While immediately after the revolution, our rulers did not demonstrate their fortunes so openly, now (and it showed in electronic declarations), they do not hide but rather openly flaunt it. Designer handbags which cost more than a regular citizen’s lifetime earnings, dozens of watches and even, as a brazen joke, a spaceflight ticket, not to mention world-famous rarities... allegedly found in a garbage heap.

“I think this should stop. We have to choose a path which will allow us to unite people, to unite the nation. And the pictures which Den has collected on these walls are aimed at precisely that, they remind us of the necessity of unity for victory, and only a blind person will, unfortunately, fail to see it.

“I am very grateful to the authors of these photos – journalists, amateurs, masters of art photography – who made for us this colorful festival, which is steeped in diverse, but always really important meanings. I would also like to congratulate all the employees of Den and Larysa Ivshyna in particular on the 20th anniversary of your publication. Thank you for doing a great job. I am very pleased to stand next to you, and when necessary, to lend a hand and thus enjoy our cooperation.”

“EACH PHOTO IS A SEPARATE STORY ABOUT UKRAINE’S PRESENT”

Nicola Franco BALLONI, diplomat, former head of the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine:

“It is a really impressive exhibition! These photos cause so many emotions. Here you can see different parts of your beautiful country. I like Ukraine! I have been living and working in Kyiv for many years. I like the Ukrainians for their sincerity, courage, and optimism. Your country and people are going through a hard time at the moment. I never thought when I first came here in 1998 that this beautiful land would see such upheavals, armed conflicts, and killings. It hurts me so much... Yours is such a beautiful country, such a very cultured people, and such a calamity has befallen it with almost three years of daily bloodshed. When I look at the photos portraying soldiers of the anti-terrorist operation, tears well up in my eyes when I see these brave, beautiful people who have been disabled in the course of defending their homeland. Oleksii Furman’s series Overcoming has struck me to the core. I desire very much for these heroic boys to always get the care they need and for peace to come to Ukraine soon. War changes people, but when I look at these pictures, I realize that these people are so strong in spirit that nothing will break them! Each photo is a separate story about Ukraine’s present.”

Take a look at Ukraine’s recovery by “reading” our photo exhibition. It will run in the Lavra Gallery (1 Lavrska Str., Kyiv) till November 13.

Admission is free.