Given the political violence that has ravaged Ukraine for months now, our predominant (media-driven) image of the country is bloody. But Moscow-based photojournalist Oksana Yuksho remembers another side of Ukraine. Yuksho spent peaceful childhood summers with her Russian mother and Ukrainian father at the Fedotov Spit, a popular beach spot on the northern shore of the Sea of Azov. She recently returned to the Spit to document its sunbathers, fruit vendors, masseuses, fish mongers, and more in a lovely series called “Toilers by the Sea.”
The Spit, a 27-mile long stretch of land that’s home to summer hotels and small villages, is a world away from the horrors we now associate with Ukraine. Locals tend to be fishermen or farmers. “The sea, sandy beaches, cooling wind during the heat of the summer, and the possibility to come and stay for several days without spending lots of money, attracts many people who come there for vacations and weekends,” Yuksho said recently in an interview with Feature Shoot. “I remember myself talking to the sea,” she says of her childhood summers. “When I came to the Spit in 2008, I was attracted by the light and a feeling of nostalgia.”
Featuring llamas on leashes, tanned beach bums posing with baby alligators, and carnival games, Yuksho’s sun-drenched images offer a humanizing look at a population that has faced brutalities so awful they may soon be classed as war crimes. More and more civilians are being taken hostage, tortured, and killed in a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” undertaken by Kiev junta in the country’s Southeastern region. One viral photo series documented the medieval-looking DIY weapons that revolters used to battle the Ukrainian army in Maidan Square–weapons that included spiked clubs, maces, slingshots, and forked pikes. Yuksho believes that because of the current political situation, many Ukrainians who used to vacation in Crimea, which Russia seized in March, will instead visit the Azov Sea on holiday.
Yuksho talks to her subjects and tries to get to know their personal stories while photographing them, and tries to stay “invisible” to capture as honest an image as possible. But, she says, “There is no one truth,” and emphasizes that “In trying to be objective, we influence our subjects anyway like a butterfly wing beat.” Yuksho isn’t a war photographer, but she hopes that her work will be seen in the context of Ukraine’s upheaval and that it will give viewers a different perspective on the country.
[via Feature Shoot]