Photo project

The Moment Before the Storm: Valerii Veduta’s Memories of Kherson

The Arabat Spit, where photographer Valerii Veduta grew up, is now under occupation. Photography has thus become the only thing that could take him on a journey through time and space to the majestic nature of where he was born and raised.
Valerii Veduta

A Ukrainian photographer hailing from Shchaslyvtseve, Kherson Region. His work has been featured in Vogue Italy, Vogue Portugal, Vogue Greece, and Harper’s Bazaar. Presently, he lives and works in Kyiv.

— About six or seven years ago, I was caught off guard by the weather while I shot the Arabat Spit landscapes in Shchaslyvtseve, where I was born and raised. Ten minutes before the rain and wind squall started, the sky over the salt-white shore of the lake took on a dramatic look. It seemed like the incoming downpour would sweep everything into the lake. Sometimes, the wind gets so strong on the Arabat Spit that it can root out the trees and send roofs flying off the houses. I saw that happen once when I was little, so I knew what it looked like. A special scent permeates the air before the wind squall and heavy rain like that.

I thought to myself that it takes adding something vulnerable to highlight nature’s grandeur and timelessness of nature. And then it occurred to me that such a landscape could use a human figure, preferably a naked one. The place was anything but a tourist magnet, and I was alone there, so I took a self-portrait.

It takes adding something vulnerable to highlight nature’s grandeur and timelessness. Such a landscape could use a human figure, preferably a naked one.

In time, shooting self-portraits on the back of local landscapes became usual for me. I photographed to better understand myself and — albeit rarely — just for a beautiful or abstract picture.

The Arabat Spit was occupied during the first day of Russia’s full-on invasion. You can even say it happened in the first few hours of it. It would be safe to walk the shore of Lake Syvash only years later, provided the territory is deoccupied at all, that much is clear. These self-portraits have thus come to reflect my longing for the place where I grew up. I used to have 20-km-long jogs at sunset there. I photographed the wildflowers and breathed the scent of the steppe, wormwood, and Lake Syvash, where I used to show and tell my son and wife many curious things.

In my view, putting a naked body in the landscape you shoot lets you get rid of the time aspect to some extent and even take your viewer on a journey through time. These pictures might as well have been taken yesterday or five years ago because the human figure is not clothed, and there is nothing to suggest when the shot was made. All those locations are tied to my childhood memories, so the self-portraits take me back to when I was a kid and show a place that doesn’t really exist now because everything has changed.

These pictures might as well have been taken yesterday or five years ago because the human figure is not clothed, and there is nothing to suggest when the shot was made.

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