One does not often associate violent protests and the threat of sniper fire with portrait studios. However, photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind’s recent portraits of protestors and fighters in Kiev, Ukraine make us question this apparent disconnect. Taylor-Lind's stunning and revealing portraits were taken with a medium-format film camera between outbursts of violence, documenting the men and women fighting for their freedom in Kiev. Originally, Taylor-Lind came to Ukraine as part of an ongoing project called Negative Zero, which documents the effects of population decline in Europe.In an interview with National Geographic, she says, “I usually work on long-term personal documentary projects. That’s what I was supposed to be doing here, but then I found myself in a news situation.” For those unfamiliar with the details of the uprising in Ukraine, The New York Times provides an excellent interactive timeline of the events leading up to-and during-the protests and subsequent ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych.
The events in the Maidan (the square in downtown Kiev central to the protests) were impossible for Taylor-Lind to ignore, and she set up a makeshift photo studio near the square, taking portraits of protestors and fighters with the help of her assistant, Emine Ziyatdinova.
Taylor-Lind describes observing a kind of "uniform" amongst those in the square. Forming a citizen militia, protestors in Kiev outfitted themselves with homemade armor and displayed blue and yellow ribbons (the colors of Ukraine’s flag) in support of their cause. Recognizing the need for some type of body armor, many protestors fashioned their own. She describes the look of the protestors as “distinctly militaristic”, saying that although they lacked official uniforms, there was a definite ideal appearance. Taylor-Lind tells National Geographic, “They were stockpiling homemade weapons, and there were people whose job it was to fashion homemade armor. I saw shin guards, thigh guards and forearm guards fashioned from plastic drainpipes.” However, the majority of the deaths witnessed by Taylor-Lind were the result of bullets fired from snipers, and the homemade armor did little to protect the protestors. As Taylor-Lind says in her interview, “I have a ballistics-grade helmet, and I don’t think I could have survived a sniper bullet with it.”
The nature of medium-format film photography prevents Taylor-Lind, and her audience, from immediately seeing her most recent photographs, as she must bring them back to London to be processed and scanned. However, by rigging her iPhone over the viewfinder of her camera, Taylor-Lind was able to capture “previews” of her portraits to post on Instagram, making them immediately available.
In her interview with National Geographic, Taylor-Lind describes the atmosphere of her initial portraits, taken two weeks ago, as “quite optimistic and defiant”. She says that some of the men and women she photographed just two weeks prior “are almost unrecognizable now”, after the mental and physical trauma of the fighting. Shifting her focus from the protestors, Taylor-Lind says she is documenting the aftermath of the uprising as families pay their respects to the dead.
[via National Geographic]