Photographer’s 1990s Passport Photos Reveal Lives of Vulnerable Ukrainians


Chekmenev Passport

Photographer Alexander Chekmenev was given a weird photograph task within the 1990s: go door-to-door within the jap Ukrainian metropolis of Luhansk and take passport images of town’s most weak residents.

Chekmenev dragged his transportable white backdrop into the flats of poor aged and infirm Ukrainians, the place he realized {that a} extensive shot exhibiting the topic’s residing quarters would higher reveal the true story of their lives as an alternative of the cropped-in passport images he was initially tasked with taking.

Chekmenev Passport

The ensuing assortment of distinctive photos made its method right into a ebook launched by Dewi Lewis in January 2017, however with the present Russian invasion, the images underline the frailty of statehood.

In 1991, Ukraine had declared itself impartial of the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and the previous Soviet state had the robust job of issuing new passports to all residents. Social companies employed photographers to assist velocity up the method.

On that task, Chekmenev — who remains to be a working photojournalist — discovered that many of his topics didn’t have primary requirements like operating water or gasoline of their properties.

Many residents he met hated having their passport footage taken. In a minimum of one case, a shocked Chekmenev discovered that one of his topics had died the very subsequent day after assembly him.

Chekmenev Passport

Chekmenev Passport

“There have been individuals who cried and requested to not torture them with pictures and to not intervene with their painful loss of life,” Chekmenev says in an interview with CNN.

A 92-year-old man that the photographer met had acquired a coffin in preparation for his demise. Whenever he completed a bottle of vodka, he would put the empty bottle into the coffin. When the casket was full he would cross it on to another person saying that it was an indication his time had not but come.

Chekmenev Passport

Chekmenev Passport

In retrospect, it seems as if it actually was useless for these poor souls to be photographed.

“The restricted body of a passport photograph is sort of a TV field in Soviet occasions: propaganda of a cheerful way of life inside the allowed limits,” Chekmenev says.

“Behind the corners of the passport and behind the sq. of a white background, the true actuality, with out retouching and censorship, was hidden.”

Chekmenev’s work might be discovered on his web site.


Image credit: All images by Alexander Chekmenev from Passport/Dewi Lewis Publishing


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