Love and Other Catastrophes

Kharkiv-based photographer Yuriy Golik started taking photos when his heart was broken. Little did he know that war and emigration awaited him ahead. The snapshots of parties filled with carefree 20-year-olds, just like himself, seem carefree until you remember what Ukrainian youth is going through now.
Yuriy Golik

Student living in Leipzig. Participant of the "Navigation" program by Jam Factory Art Centre and the workshop of Odesa Photo Days. Studied in the studio of Igor Chekachkov and at MYPH School by Sergiy Melnychuk. Currently studying photography at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig.

— Prior to the full-scale invasion, I had a vibrant cultural life: I worked as an SMM manager at the Kharkiv Municipal Gallery and studied art history at the Kharkiv Academy of Design. In 2021, I co-founded the platform PATIO with friends, where we engaged with creative youth, organizing poetry-music evenings, conducting artist talks, and even hosting a charitable rave once. Typically, PATIO attracted 50-80 people, which was quite good for intimate gatherings. It was in 2021 that I created my first photo series.

I became passionate about photography while going through a failed romantic relationship. I needed to find an outlet for my emotions and overcome the fear of intimacy with others, so I started with self-portraits. Ultimately, sublimation is a constructive path, unlike, for example, drinking. I enjoy studying the nature of romantic relationships, exploring their various facets and the emotions they evoke: passion, sadness, joy, anger. Despite the pain, they make you truly alive as a human being.

Later on, I started photographing other people and experimenting with form. I capture long-exposure shots with colored light. In my photos, you’ll usually see my friends, sometimes just acquaintances, and a few strangers.

Thus, this is a story about us. Our generation faces many difficulties due to the pandemic and war. We have to grow up faster and make decisions that literally determine our lives. For example, many of my friends left Ukraine, but just as many are planning to return. Deep down, we are still adolescents at heart.

Our generation faces many challenges: we have to make decisions that literally determine our lives.

Friends are very important to me, we help each other. Like my social circle, I support basic human rights, feminism, and the LGBTQ+ community. I also love my home, Kharkiv, and want to develop the urban environment and fight for heritage preservation. Even the charity rave we organized was in support of the local publication “Lyuk”.

I enjoy visiting galleries – I recently attended an exhibition of students from UMPRUM in Prague. But the most memorable exhibition was the one showcasing Ukrainian artists at the Albertinum in Dresden. I appreciate art-house cinema, such as Wong Kar-wai, Gaspar Noé, or Paolo Sorrentino, but I also watch popular series on Netflix or cartoons. I know that a photographer needs to consume a lot of visual content, but I am more inspired by theory – I adore scientific literature about art. I derive great pleasure from studying something, and for me, it is both learning and relaxation. Overall, inspiration can come from anywhere. For example, the song “Ptaha Emigrant” by the band BusiCama sparked the idea for me to create a series about emigrants. In this series, I plan to experiment with a new technique – combining photography with linocut.

Currently, I live and study in Leipzig, and I have already met Ukrainians from my academy. I constantly think about home. In Kharkiv, my friends and I would often meet up in cafes or bars, and if we were studying or working, we would gather in coworking spaces. For Europeans, this is unusual: they simply meet in parks and do nothing, but I need to be engaged in something even during conversations with friends. Sometimes I spend time with foreigners, but most of the time it’s still with Ukrainians – because we are united by a shared trauma.

I really want to return home when it becomes safer here. But until then, I prefer to become a skilled professional to contribute to the development of the Ukrainian art scene. In general, I have a dream – to open my own academy in Kharkiv, where artists will be taught curating and management skills.

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