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Ukrainian photographers of the twentieth century: who shot what

Photo by Ihor Kostin

Photo shops, photo studios, and private photography courses. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, photography became commonplace in modern Ukraine. Artists united in professional and amateur societies. Some earned millions from photographs and gained fame, while others went bankrupt and lost everything. Someone worked as a photojournalist for Soviet newspapers, and someone worked as a freelancer and travel blogger. Someone photographed the Russian emperor in the late nineteenth century, and someone photographed street children in the mid-1990s. All of them contributed to the development of Ukrainian photography in one way or another.

Photographic portrait in the mirror. Photo by Yulian Dorosh 

Photos from the series "Wedding Dress in Prykarpattia". 1930s-50s. Photo by Yulian Dorosh  

Julian Dorosh was a filmmaker and photographer who was among the initiators of the Ukrainian Photographic Society in Lviv (1930-1939). UVOTO was an association of Ukrainian amateur photographers in Western Ukraine that united Ukrainian photographers and promoted the art and technique of photography. The association also organized photo exhibitions, including ethnographic exhibitions. One of the most famous expositions of the UVOTO was "Our Homeland in the Photograph," where Dorosh presented about 100 ethnographic photographs and won first place. In total, Dorosh's collection of photographs and films includes more than 8,000 items.

Photo by Sofia Yablonska

A young dancer of the Balinese dance Legong. 1930s. Photo by Sofia Yablonska-Uden

Sofia Yablonska-Uden (1907-1971) was the author of the first Ukrainian travelogues, a cinematographer and photographer who traveled around the world, lived for a long time in China, and was buried in France. The Galician journalist actively photographed the most remote corners of Asia, Africa, and Oceania. She illustrated her travel novels with her own exotic photographs from her travels. During her travels, she was called "Miss Ukraine" because she never forgot about her homeland and told foreigners about her native landscapes and way of life. Once in China, she planted sunflowers and hollyhocks near her home, and she cooked Ukrainian dishes for the locals, embroidered towels with them, and taught them how to milk cows. Yablonska worked for the French television company Indochina Film, but her work was published in several publications in Galicia at the time, causing a significant resonance and becoming a sensation. The life of the legendary woman ended suddenly in a car accident in February 1971, when the 64-year-old reporter was on her way to the publishing house with a book of short stories and essays called Two Measures - Two Weights.

Photo by Danylo Figol

The museologist and ethnographer Danylo Figol (1907-1967) was interested in artistic rather than reportage photography. Figol took part in all exhibitions organized by UVOTO: in Galicia (eight exhibitions) and abroad. In 1939, the artist moved to Lviv and was the last head of the UVOTO. After the war, Figol worked at the Department of Ethnography of the Institute of Ukrainian Folklore of the Ukrainian SSR and the State Ethnographic Museum of the Ukrainian SSR: he researched scientific and applied photography and managed the toy collection. Throughout his life, he continued to take photographs.

Portrait of Paraska Plytka-Horytsvit. The second half of the 20th century

The Carpathian artist, writer, and folklorist Paraska Plytka-Horytsvit (1927-1998) is considered a phenomenon of Ukrainian naïve art and writing. She taught herself to use a camera and for several decades documented the life and way of life of the mountain village of Kryvorivnia in the Carpathians. Plytka-Horytsvit was also an icon painter: she created more than 100 icons, but managed to preserve 82.

Josef Chmielewski was the first photojournalist in Poltava, the author of unique images of the city's life and its prominent residents. He is the author of an album of photographs of places related to the life of Mykola Hohol, photographs from the opening ceremony of the monument to Ivan Kotliarevskyi (1903). He had his own photo studio in Poltava. Khmelevskyi was an expert in photographic techniques and chemistry, an innovator in this field, and made photographic plates himself. In 1900, he was awarded a large gold medal and a special distinction by the French government at the Paris World Exhibition.

Photographer Franz de Meyer 


Franz de Meyer (1830-1922) was a Ukrainian photographer originally from Volyn. He graduated from the Academy of Arts in Vienna. At the time, a camera and other necessary equipment were incredibly expensive - but the investment paid off when in 1865 he successfully opened his own studio in the heart of the city on the corner of Khreshchatyk and Prorizna. He was friends with Ukrainian actors, poets, writers, and scientists. He left many portraits of Lesya Ukrainka. Franz de Mezer created a unique handmade album with views of Kyiv. In the early 1870s, Mather became one of the richest Kyivans. In the wake of his success, he tried to enter the hotel business, even building his own giant building on Khreshchatyk, but the idea failed. Mather barely paid off his debts and returned to his usual business, photography. In addition to portraits, he also took pictures of Kyiv landscapes. His photographs preserve the quiet Kyiv of the nineteenth century. Mather worked in his photography studio until the Bolshevik revolution. In 1918, the 88-year-old photographer was visited by the Chekists, who took away all his equipment and most of his negatives. Three years later, he died of a heart attack.

Oleksii Ivanitskyi (1850-1920) was one of the first people to engage in Ukrainian reportage photography. In 1888, he documented the crash of an imperial train near Kharkiv. The crash killed 21 passengers and injured 68 others. The train was carrying Russian Emperor Alexander III, who, unfortunately, was not injured. Ivanitsky opened his own photography studio in Kharkiv in 1882, but it was the train incident that gave his career a powerful boost. Alexander III awarded him medals and a diamond ring. The photographer photographed the royal family several more times when they visited the crash site. This event was so significant that a church was built at the crash site. During the revolution, he was hiding from the Red Army in the Crimea, where he managed to work in a local studio for some time. But he did not succeed in hiding. He was killed by the decision of the so-called "troika". In the questionnaire they wrote: "Nobleman, escaped from Kharkiv. To be shot".


Portrait of Iryna Pap. 1962. Photo by Borys Hradov

Photo by Iryna Pap

Iryna Pap (1917-1985) was a prominent photojournalist in Soviet Ukraine. She photographed many famous people of the time for the Izvestia newspaper. In addition, she photographed the construction of the Kyiv subway, the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, fresh Khrushchev houses, the first Zaporizhzhia cars, and more. She managed to preserve the truthfulness of her work despite all the party restrictions. In 1971, Iryna founded her own photography school at the Union of Journalists of Ukraine. It was probably the first professional photography school in the Ukrainian SSR.

Photo by Mykola Kozlovsky

From the early 1960s until the collapse of the USSR, Mykola Kozlovsky was a special correspondent for Ogonyok. The photographer's first serious work was the "Kyiv Nuremberg," a trial of Nazi prisoners that took place right on the Maidan in January 1946. At that time, the young Kozlovsky's photographs were appreciated. In 1948, he started shooting for Ogonyok, and 10 years later he became a star photographer in the USSR with a bunch of awards and the chief special correspondent for the Ukrainian SSR. He photographed Hutsuls in the Carpathians and Kyiv residents on the streets of the summer city. The heroes of Kozlovsky's photographs became stars. Beautiful girls received letters from the military, and a good photo could give ordinary workers a career boost. The photographer died in 1996 in Kyiv.  

Photo by Ihor Kostin

Ihor Kostin (1935-2015) was a Ukrainian photojournalist, cinematographer, member of the National Union of Cinematographers and the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine. Kostin documented the aftermath of the Chornobyl disaster and received the first World Press Photo award in 1987. His photo story "Chernobyl" was shot immediately after the accident at the nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986. He stayed in Chornobyl for the next 13 days. Twice he went down to the 4th reactor, five times he climbed to the roof of the 3rd reactor, and was exposed to 5 permissible doses. His photographs were exhibited in the Netherlands, the United States, and the UN headquarters. In 2002, his photo album "Chernobyl. A Reporter's Confession" was published in 2002, featuring his best photographs from the Chornobyl zone. In total, he won more than 10 international prizes, and his photographs were included in the anthology "100 Reporters of the 20th Century".

Photo by Oleksandr Ranchukov


Oleksandr Ranchukov (1943-2019) was a documentary photographer. In 1986, he was among the founders of the Creative Photographic Association Pohlyad. Since the 1970s, he photographed the architecture of Ukrainian cities, as well as the life of the streets of Kyiv in the last years of the USSR. Ranchukov was a perfectionist in photography. He was almost the only photographer in Ukraine who purposefully captured (in the 1970s and 1990s) the image of a Soviet person in an urban environment. He was looking for the typical in behavior, clothing, how the public reacts to a foreign car, etc. A special place in Ranchukov's work is occupied by the landscape. Oleksandr spent months secluded in the forests, turning into an invisible part of nature.

Photo by Borys Mykhailov

Boris Mikhailov (born 1938) is the most famous contemporary Ukrainian photographer in the world. He is one of the founders of the Kharkiv School of Photography, which began with the creation of the Vremya group in the early 1970s. He works in the style of conceptual and social documentary photography. In the late 1980s, interest in unofficial Soviet photography began to grow in the West. Mikhailov actively participates in exhibitions abroad. He is the winner of the Hasselblad Prize, whose works have been exhibited in the most prestigious museums in the world.

Kyiv, 1996. Photo by Oleksandr Hlyadelov

Oleksandr Hlyadelov (1956) is a documentary photographer. Winner of the Shevchenko Prize (2020). A member of the legendary Creative Photographic Association "Pohlyad", which was the first in Ukraine to focus on the development of humanistic, truthful documentary photography (1987-1993). He focuses on social issues: military conflicts, humanitarian crises, street children, prisons, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis C epidemics, drug addiction. He does not consider himself a war photographer, although some of his work is dedicated to wars and conflicts. He consciously takes photos with an analog camera on black and white film and prints his own photos in his home photo lab in Kyiv. Oleksandr Glyadelov believes that photography changes the world for the better.


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