Ukraine, from Independence Square to the Donbas, 2013-2022
The history of revolution can never be written in advance. If protracted, time undermines the event as heroes gradually become exhausted and leave other characters to contend with increasingly uncertain fates. For a number of years now, Guillaume Herbaut has been covering Ukraine and the tension between advocates of the country moving closer to the European Union and those who are attached to their Russian links.
The struggle which started with the heroic occupation of a city square in Kiev developed into trench warfare in the east of the country. How can this shift be shown as the people follow the transition into what has generally been recognized as a period of doom? Perhaps by giving each rebel an identity as a fighter, bringing each one into the legend of current events.
It is impossible to overlook the past, for it was here in this part of the world in the mid-19th century that photography and war came together for the first time. During the Crimean War (1853-56), Roger Fenton from Britain traveled with six horses drawing his photographic van and was able to develop pictures using the collodion plate process. Pictures “based on photographs” made using the plates became the first press photos in history.
Guillaume Herbaut has found something similarly archaic in his coverage of the war in the Donbas: a person speechless, a landscape devoid of movement, an atmosphere frozen. Herbaut fraternizes with his photographer forbears as the separatists and the Ukrainian Armed Forces play out, once again, scenes from the battle waged since ancient times between Europe and Asia.
Michel Poivert – Historian of photography