Photo project

Between Bakhmut and Dnipro

At the beginning of the invasion, photographer Andriy Parakhin engaged in art therapy with displaced children in his hometown of Bakhmut. They colored his black and white photographs to alleviate their anxiety. Later, he evacuated to Dnipro, where he continued the project. The author shared with Bird in Flight how children's creativity gave him hope for the future.
Andriy Parakhin

Photographer from Bakhmut. Holds two higher education degrees - economist and cultural studies. Exhibited works in Ukraine. Currently based in Dnipro.

— From 2010 to 2014, I lived in Donetsk. I engaged in artistic activities, promoted photography, and printed and published my works. After the city’s occupation, I returned to my hometown of Bakhmut.

I continued taking photographs, but printing became more challenging. I only had access to laser black-and-white printers, so I started experimenting. Colorful photographs took on a new “interpretation” as they turned into black and white. I tried different textured papers and even printed on the back of wallpapers.

I had access only to black-and-white laser printers, and I started experimenting.

Once while working at a school, as I was returning to the classroom with my prints, I noticed one boy distracting the rest of the children. To engage him, I gave the boy one of my photographs and some markers. The result pleasantly surprised me — that’s when I realized it was a sign.

In March 2022, during the Russian shelling, many displaced people from Popasna and neighboring places came to Bakhmut. I wanted to help the children who had been forced to leave their hometown. However, a month later, I had to evacuate from Bakhmut to Dnipro myself, and later I started working with the displaced children. That’s how coloring books came to be, along with my journey in Dnipro.

This allowed children to express their emotions through creativity. The key was to keep parents at a maximum distance from the children during the process. Because adults usually can’t hold back and tell children how things should be.

I had only one rule for the children: there are no rules. If you want to add something or color it differently, you can. As a result, what started as an experiment grew into art therapy. And the children began to draw a world that was comfortable for them.

I had only one rule for the children: there are no rules.

Moreover, it’s metaphorical. The old world, if not dead, has faded. And the future belongs to those who are currently studying in school. And we want to believe that it will be colorful and bright. If a child draws the sun, I believe that everything will be fine.

In Dnipro, many elements remind me of Bakhmut. For example, the old architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are cobblestone streets, walking along which you forget that you are not at home anymore. And there are many other personal things that are now felt even more sharply due to the destruction of my hometown.

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