Ukraine in the Shadows:
Pavel Guryev’s Mobilography
Born in Lithuania, lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Majored in architecture. Has been doing photography since 2011. Since 2014, takes only mobile photographs. Member of the international photo agency 14&15 Mobile Photographers.
— My series called The Ukrainians is first of all an attempt to answer for myself whether anything has changed recently in the everyday life of the Ukrainian people. I don’t take photographs about the military actions in the east of the country, politics, and so on. My photographs capture everyday life. I am not a professional documentary photographer. Street photography is my hobby, so I shoot when I have time and money. I will probably be able to answer the question what this series is about only when I realize that I took the final shot that completes it.
In 2014, there was probably a breaking point and one of the most important moments for me as a photographic artist. There was a time when I was reluctant to lay my hands on a camera. Looking for inspiration, I accidentally found an article about an international collective of street photographers who take pictures on mobile phones — Tiny Collective. I was so amazed with the quality of their photographs that the next day I bought a camera phone and set out to shoot. I got so drawn into it that I sold all my other photographic equipment and since then have been taking only mobile photographs — with an iPhone 5 + hipstamatic app. This turned out to be the most convenient and the best camera for me. Taking pictures on a mobile, I gained inner freedom, the invisibility in the streets that I wanted so much. The style of my photographs, my photographic perception, and approach to choosing stories have also changed.
I live in Kharkiv, but in 2015 I spent half a year in Lviv, on the other side of the country. It is a wonderful city, it inspires you to shoot a lot. When I was about to go back to Kharkiv, the hard drive where I stored all my photographs was damaged. I managed to restore only a small portion of the entire archive of my photographs: the last ones that I took in Kharkiv before leaving and the first one I took upon my arrival to Lviv. After a short-lived panic, I decided to unite them into one joint series and call it The Ukrainians.
After that, the geography of the series expanded. I have made an effort to go to other cities and spend at least several days taking pictures there. So, it was all definitely for the best. Had I not lost almost my entire archive, it may be that the series would not have come to life. Besides, I was just curious if I could shoot a large-scale series entirely on a mobile.
I have loved observing the world around me since early childhood, that’s why all of my photographs are an interpretation of what I saw, a combination of my perception of the world and the environment. It is also a great means of self-growth. When you realize you are shooting something mundane, you start going deeper, searching for the truth. You can search for it inside yourself or in the outside world, literature, music — it is different for everyone.
When it comes to The Ukrainians, I try to be as impartial as I can. I don’t have a goal to present the nation in negative light or praise it. I capture the things as they are: the humor, the traces of human activity in urban environment — and I try not to interfere with the natural course of things. Only time will show, what my photographs will draw attention to, if they will.