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«I try to find a goal in every flight». Photo with the story through the eyes of Olena Huseynova

Photography captures what the eye can see. It captures what is happening. The way it is here and now. With the detail and clarity available here and now.

Heorhiy Ivanchenko photographs the aftermath of the arrival in Kharkiv. A nighttime Kharkiv courtyard viewed from above. A rescuer moving through this yard, lighting his way with a flashlight. I know of other photographs by Ivanchenko where the same characters are involved: Kharkiv courtyards shelled by Russian missiles, and city rescuers who are the first to arrive at the sites of these missiles.

I ask Heorhiy about this photo, and he can't remember when he took it. To remember, he checks the metadata. Since December, the shelling of Kharkiv has become a routine, a deadly routine. The Russians have already sent as many ballistic missiles from the air to the city as they have not sent since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. And the missiles keep coming. The Economist warns that the city is about to be turned into a "gray zone" and mentions Aleppo.

«In every flight I try to find a purpose, to find a goal», says Ivanchenko.

But this photo does not explain anything. Neither do the other photos. The outlines of houses, broken windows, yards covered with broken glass, silhouettes of people, dim light sources - all these effects do not shed light on the causes after which all this happens and from which all this flows. However, geometry comes through in this photograph. The simplest shapes - a point, a line, a ray - are folded into the dark rectangle of the house and the circles of light from the rescuer's flashlight: a small one, in which the human figure is inscribed, and a large one, which falls on the house next to it. The spatial forms, their relative positions and sizes are outlined in the photograph. However, this random systematicity does not change anything.

«I don't understand», Ivanchenko says, and simply records the consequences of another Russian shelling.

It records what is happening. Just the way it is. Almost like X-rays. They don't change anything either, they don't cure anyone. They just state and make it visible. Sometimes this visibility saves lives.


Olena Huseynova is a Ukrainian writer, radio host, and radio producer. Since 2016, she has been working at Radio Kultura (Suspilne). Currently, she is the editor-in-chief of the Radio Theater and Literary Programs Department. From February 26, 2022, Olena worked as a live presenter of a round-the-clock information radio marathon on Ukrainian Radio (Suspilne). She is the author of two books of poetry, Open Rider (2012) and Superheroes (2016). She also writes essays and short fiction.

Heorhiy Ivanchenko is a Ukrainian photographer who has been working as a freelance reporter in the field of documentary and journalistic photography since February 2022. From the first months of the invasion, he began shooting for the Associated Press and the European Pressphoto Agency. Starting from Borodyansky district, where Heorhiy was born, he continued his journey along the front line: Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, and now his attention is focused on Donetsk region. The turning point in his photography was when he spent almost a month in Bakhmut. During December and January, he documented the lives of the townspeople with a backpack and a sleeping bag, sharing his life with locals in basements, volunteers, medics, military, and firefighters. In April, while working on a story about Chasiv Yar in Donbas, his car was shot at and destroyed by a Russian shell. Now the author continues his reflection on the many situations that have come his way and is working on his first project, Way of War (working title).

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