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IMI and UNESCO photo exhibition "Behind the Lens: Culture Under Attack" open in Kyiv May 4 to 19

06.05.2024, 13:14

Tthe photo exhibition "Behind the Lens: Culture Under Attack", which was organized by the Institute of Mass Information, will be open in Kyiv on May 4 to 19, reports "Detector Media".

The exhibition displays the works of Ukrainian journalists, reporters, and photographers who documented the damage and destruction suffered by Ukrainian churches, theaters, libraries, museums and other cultural sites as a result of Russia's aggression.

This project is prepared by IMI with the financial support from the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund and the people of Japan.

The Transfuguration Cathedral in Odesa after a shelling strike. Photo by Valentyn Kuzan

The project was conceived a year ago with IMI's desire to support Ukrainian photographers. After UNESCO joined the project, its representatives proposed to make a series of photos specifically about the Ukrainian cultural sites destroyed by the Russian troops, says the exhibition's curator, Ukrainian journalist and photographer, 2023 Pulitzer Prize winner Stas Kozliuk.

"We had a list of damaged sites that we planned to film from the very start, but unfortunately the enemy's constant attacks on cultural sites made this list longer. There were also some quite tragic things that happened during this time, such as the Oles Honchar Academic Library of Kherson Oblast. First it was damaged by Russian shelling, and then, just a couple of weeks after local journalist Ivan Antypenko took photos of the library for our project, the Russians destroyed it completely. It no longer exists," the journalist said.

There were 65 media workers involved in the project; they took over 6.5 thousand photos, from which he as the curator selected 650 pictures, about 50 of which are displayed at the exhibition, notes Stas Kozliuk.

Merchant F. Kurylo's shop in Trostyanets, Sumy oblast, built over 100 years ago and destroyed by Russian troops. Photo by Alyona Yatsyna

The journalist was most impressed by the photo series dedicated to the children's author Volodymyr Vakulenko, who was murdered by the Russians while Izyum was occupied. They were taken by Ukrainian street photographer, reporter, and documentarist Mykhailo Palinchak. The pictures show the garden where Volodymyr hid his journal; the journal itself, which was famously found by the writer Victoria Amelina, who was later killed by the Russians as well; the bomb shelter where the author was hiding, etc.

"The point of the story is that Russia is not just fighting the Ukrainian army and Ukrainians in general, but is systematically destroying our culture, as it has been doing in the previous few centuries. It not only destroys Ukraine's historical and cultural sites, but also kills writers, razes the places where artists and sculptors used to work to the ground, effectively forcing them to leave their workshops, as in Kharkiv, for example," Kozliuk said.

He added that the Russians were destroying buildings where local communities used to gather, such as cultural centers where people had access to movie theaters, clubs, and libraries. "Many of these buildings no longer exist, and people have no place to gather and do their usual things," the journalist noted.

The exhibition is open at the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Art on May 4 to 19. Opening hours: 10:30 to 17:00; 12:00 to 19:30 on Thursdays (closed on Monday, Tuesday). Entrance free of charge.

The Chernihiv Drama Theater after a missile strike. Photo by Stas Kozliuk

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