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UNESCO and IMI present photo exhibition on culture in the midst of war

Photo by Yuriy Stefanyak


The Khanenko Museum is hosting a photo exhibition "Behind the Lens: Culture in the Maelstrom of War" about the Ukrainian cultural heritage destroyed by Russia. The project was implemented by the Institute of Mass Information with the support of the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund and the people of Japan.

 

Photo by Yuriy Stefanyak


The project involved 65 photographers from different parts of Ukraine who took more than 6,500 photos of damaged or destroyed cultural, historical, and religious sites. Through the lens of the authors, you can see broken windows and mutilated facades of churches and houses of culture, ruined theater ceilings, and library ruins.


The curator of the exhibition, journalist and photographer, Pulitzer Prize winner in 2023, Stas Kozliuk, says that during the project, they had to expand the list of damaged cultural monuments: "Russia does not stop the war. For example, after the shelling of Chernihiv on August 19, 2023, we added 8 or 10 buildings from the central square of the city. Among them are the Chernihiv Theater and the court building. All the buildings were damaged as a result of the Iskander missile attack. We also added the damaged Cathedral in Odesa to the list. Valentyn Kuzan was taking documentary photos at the time."


Photo: UNESCO / Ihor Babynets


In total, the final collection of the exhibition includes fifty photographs. Stas Kozliuk explains that when compiling the collection, the first consideration was given to the quality of the photos, both from an artistic and technical point of view. The organizers of the exhibition also sought to show the geography of the destruction. "We wanted to present the entire front line in fact. Because the photographers took pictures from Kyiv to Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Odesa regions. By the way, the westernmost point in the project is Zhytomyr region. There is a church there that was destroyed by the Russians."

 

Photo: UNESCO / Ihor Babynets

 

Photo by Yuriy Stefanyak


The curator of the exhibition admits that he was impressed by the feedback he received from visitors who spoke about the scale of the destruction. "It's very interesting to watch people's reactions. You see how the realization comes that the war is closer than it seems. For example, the damaged church in Brovary district, 30 minutes away from Kyiv, or the burned House of Culture in Irpin, which is also nearby. People from Mykolaiv came up to me and said: "We thought that only our city suffers from shelling. But when you see the exhibition, you realize that the situation is similar in many regions," says Stas Kozliuk. "I am very glad that we managed to show the scale of the crime that the Russians are committing. This was the main idea that we put into this project."


Photo by Yuriy Stefanyak


The exhibition is currently on view at the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Art until May 19. Opening hours: from 10:30 to 17:00, on Thursday - from 12:00 to 19:30 (Monday, Tuesday - days off). Admission is free. On weekends, May 18 and 19, the Museum will hold two additional tours (in English on Saturday).


After Kyiv, the photo exhibition will be taken to Paris.


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