Inspiration

Kids from a Liberated Village Were Given a Camera to Shoot Anything They Want. Here’s How It Went

Destroyed buildings, domestic animals and military vehicles – kids from Lukashivka village, Chernihiv district, have filmed what they see on the daily basis.

Lukashivka is a 15 minutes bus ride from Chernihiv. It has been occupied by russians for almost three weeks in March. As soon as the village was liberated, volunteers swarmed there. Among them – Dmytro Zubkov and Artem Skorohodko, who offered the local children to take pictures of everything going on around them. It turned into a project Behind Blue Eyes to be presented this weekend at the gallery. The volunteers told Bird in Flight what the children who witnessed the occupation take pictures of, and what struck them in these pictures.

Dmytro Zubkov and Artem Skorohodko

The founders of the project Behind Blue Eyes, volunteers .

— As soon as the Chernihiv oblast has been liberated, we started delivering the humanitarian aid there. We picked three villages: Yahidne, Loboda and Lukashivka. It was the last one that we chose to start the project in. Previously, we’ve been there 5 times or so, bringing in two pickups with aid each time. While doing so, we got to know the kids playing nearby the humanitarian centre, and made friends with them. They didn’t tell much of the war. Just once, a guy told us about the Solntsepyoks [a Soviet multiple rocket launcher, literally named “Scorching sunlight” – translator’s note] bombarding the village, and the casual way of him talking about such things gave us chills.

The village residents aren’t mourning. It seems like it’s not time for them to grieve: they have to rebuild Lukashivka, get the harvest in, feed the closest ones. The children also didn’t look scared. They were running, playing, laughing – in a word, doing everything a child of their age should be engaged in. We felt the urge to savour this feeling of hope, their carefree happiness, and share it with others. At first we had an idea to ask some grown-up to film the village. But soon we realized we wouldn’t have an outcome we’d want to receive – as we see the world from the adult perspective every day. So we asked the kids whether they would like to take photos of Lukashivka. They are pretty straightforward, and those not feeling like doing it honestly said so. But still 9 kids took up the challenge.

We felt the urge to savour this feeling of hope, their carefree happiness, and share it with others.

We spent our own money on cameras and film. Then we explained to the children that it is nothing like a smartphone and that they can only make 27 frames. They listened attentively, but as soon as they took the camera, they began to take pictures of their hands, friends, everything that caught their eye. We did not set any specific goals and promised to come back in a week.

We were prepared that only a couple out of the 9 cameras would return to us intact, but the children treated their work responsibly, so they did not break or lose anything. When we developed the films, it was probably the happiest day since February 24th. I was especially surprised by how different these photos turned out. Everyone had his own “technique”: someone tried to shoot macro, someone’s shots came out blurry, someone’s were backlit. The scenery also differed. The older ones took pictures of destroyed buildings, while the younger ones mostly captured flowers or animals. The picture with the girl’s hand holding dandelions against the backdrop of the blue sky was especially awe-inspiring. There is something surprisingly life-affirming about it.

Now we barely keep pace with all the requests – from the media, brands, ordinary people who saw the project on Instagram. The first exhibition will take place in the Avangarden gallery in Kyiv this weekend, but we will not stop there. Our dream is to make sure that these photos are seen at least all over Ukraine, though it would be better if they are known all over the world.

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