Ukraine: Photographs From The Frontline - Gut-Wrenching Exhibition Comes to London In 2023

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 20 months ago

Last Updated 23 September 2022

Ukraine: Photographs From The Frontline - Gut-Wrenching Exhibition Comes to London In 2023
Anti-government protests, Kyiv February 2014. Smoke billows from burning tyres as protestors hold frontline barricades, built around a monument in central Kyiv. Clashes with riot police turned increasingly violent in the days before the overthrow of the Ukrainian government. The protests were born out of frustration with the President's choice to form closer ties with Russia over a deal with the European Union. "It was dangerous for the protestors, in the beginning, people didn't want to show their faces. After the violence really reached its peak people no longer cared. There was no going back..." © Anastasia Taylor-Lind

A gut-wrenching exhibition comes to IWM London early next year, documenting life in Ukraine since Russian forces annexed Crimea in 2014, causing unrest that's since bubbled over into full-scale invasion.

Living amidst conflict, Donbas, 2018. The Grinik family in their garden just 50 metres away from a Ukrainian frontline position. Since 2014, Ukrainians like Olga and Nikolay Grinik have had to adapt to living under the shadow of conflict. This has meant life has continued at times without basic amenities such as electricity, local authorities, medical services, and water supplies. "I was interested in the reasons young families choose to stay in frontline towns and the ways that they adapted to raise their children around the dangers and restrictions of the frontline." Image © Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Ukraine: Photographs from the Frontline is a powerful collection of 17 photos taken by English/Swedish photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind in Ukraine over the past eight years — capturing the terrifying, ugly and tragic scenes from a country under siege.

The free exhibition comes to IWM London on 3 February 2023, after a stint at the sister IWM in Manchester this winter.

Mass grave excavation, Bucha, April 2022. Natalia Lukyanenko watches the excavation of a mass grave near Kyiv. Some of her family, including her son, were killed during a Russian occupation of the area. This neighbourhood was so overwhelmed with dead that a mass grave was used. When the area reverted to Ukrainian control the bodies were exhumed by forensic investigators. "I documented this excavation alongside a crowd of other journalists. On many occasions, there were more journalists present than residents, leaving many, including me, questioning how best to manage intensive media interest in a way that does not harm those we report on and for." Image © Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Taylor-Lind's images capture the full-throated opposition of Ukrainians in Kyiv, as they opted to remove the pro-Russian government in the "Revolution of Dignity", to seemingly peaceful images, such as that of a young child from the Grinik family feeding a horse in their garden.

War, violence and heartache, though, is never far away — that same garden was  just 50 meters away from a Ukrainian frontline position, when photographed.

Sisters Lyudmyla and Nelya Tkachenko, Poland, March 2022. Lyudmyla and Nelya at a temporary refugee shelter. Anastasia Taylor-Lind set up a makeshift studio to photograph some of the civilians seeking safety outside Ukraine. The impact of the Russian invasion on Ukrainians has been devastating, causing millions to flee the country and leaving millions more internally displaced. "We are sisters, we came with our children and our mother. Our husbands stayed there to defend their homeland. We were separated. We are just in shock; we don't really know what to do."  - Lyudmyla and Nelya Tkachenko. Image © Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Inevitably, the toll of war rears its head — in a visit to a mine-strewn graveyard by a grieving mother, or an impersonal line-up of bodybags, as forensic investigators exhume a mass grave. One again, IWM will deliver an exhibition that brings a lump to throat.

During her time documenting this desperate period for Ukraine, Taylor-Lind worked alongside Ukrainian journalist Alisa Sopova, who provides captions and texts to accompany the exhibition. The voices of some of the subjects in the photos feature too, such as those of sisters Lyudmyla and Nelya Tkachenko, among the millions of Ukrainians who have now fled to Poland and elsewhere.

A grieving mother, Donbas, 2019 Anna Dedova at her son's graveside on a frontline. He was accidentally killed by a hand grenade he found near his home. An estimated 3,400 civilians were killed in Donbas between April 2014 and December 2021. "This visit was a rare chance for Anna. The area is situated between the frontline. The graveyard is mined, and civilians are not allowed to enter it."- Alisa Sopova. Image © Anastasia Taylor-Lind

London has already witnessed some compelling Ukraine-centred artworks, not least with Visions of Home, scattered around Wembley Park. Anastasia Taylor-Lind's exhibition will again drum home the inconceivable horrors and grief that have been — and continue to be — felt by our European neighbours.

Ukraine: Photographs from the Frontline, IWM London, free, 3 February-7 May 2023