Not Your Innocent Colouring Pictures: Ihor Hora’s War Collages
A photographer living and working in Odesa.
— I realized the war was imminent but still wasn’t ready for it. It’s no wonder because how can you be ready for explosions in the middle of the night?
Despite the shock of the first days of the war, defence preparations began immediately in Odesa. People started bagging sand from city beaches to build barricades and preparing Molotov cocktails. Some joined the Territorial Defence Forces, and others became volunteers. Even the most pro-Russian locals started shunning the Russian world. Everyone made every effort to defend the city and help Ukraine win the war.
Now we know that the enemy cannot get to Odesa quickly. On land, it is protected by Mykolaiv, and the Russians will have a hard time landing from sea, although they threatened to do it throughout the entire spring. We have missile strikes now and then, but the tension has slightly subsided. Locals exercise, go fishing, have barbecues outdoors on weekends, and bask in the sun, but fighting spirit is in the air.
My current work is twofold. As a documentalist, I talk to the residents of Odesa, document city life during the war, and publish my work in the media. As an artist, I make collages. I have no trouble finding ideas — they just come by themselves.
My collages are based on war photographs published in open sources. Some of them don’t even require artistic interpretation — those are art pieces in their own right, like the picture of a dead Russian soldier, on whom someone put an accordion. In such cases, all I have to do is make the photo more evocative and more pleasant to look at. Dead bodies are an ugly sight, even if we are talking about our enemies. However, everything changes once you make the picture more colourful. Collages are an art therapy of sorts — they help me cope with my hate. You paint over the dead enemies, and they become abstract splashes of colour.
Dead bodies are an ugly sight, even if we are talking about our enemies. However, everything changes once you make the picture more colourful.
In my opinion, the mission of Ukrainian artists, photographers, and cultural figures now is to draw the world’s attention to the war in Ukraine. We should sell our works if we can and then donate money to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Meanwhile, the Russian culture deserves only to be cancelled. Some of its representatives indeed protest the war, but they do it in a weird way. Take Serebrennikov, for example. Participating in a panel during the Cannes Film Festival, he suggested raising money for the families of killed Russian soldiers.
After Ukraine wins, there will be lots of films and photo projects about this war. I don’t know when the victory day will come, but I will sure film it.