Photographer shoots graduation album in Ukraine ruins

STORY: Photographer Stanislav Senyk has used the destruction in the eastern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv as a sobering backdrop for an album of graduating high school students, amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.

The photos show pupils wearing their sashes surrounded by debris, posing in heavily damaged buildings or standing atop destroyed tanks and vehicles.

“When I was already planning to go to Chernihiv, I realized that I could write a very important story at that moment, about schoolchildren who were graduating and who had witnessed the war, and because of that their graduation, their prom, their everything, just cracked. And I'm sure it was very important to capture that memory. And 10-15 years from now, when they have their own children, they can show those pictures to them."

"Seeing it in person is a special feeling that cannot be described. But I was also dominated by a different feeling. I saw the children who were there and it was like some kind of surrealism going on. Because they were no longer impressed by those ruined buildings. It was as if they had already experienced it and had become stronger.

“We were taking pictures near the tank. And they got on the tank normally. Someone went down, got some bullets, even gave me one. I mean, they felt like they'd learned to live with it and it was kind of a routine.

Seventeen-year-old Olha Babynets was one of about 40 school students who took part in Senyk’s photoshoot.

"We all really liked it, although it was emotionally difficult. I mean, I want to emphasize the fact that we didn't rejoice in the ruins, it was very difficult for us. But we wanted to show that we live in such realities."

Senyk hopes to find an exhibition or auction where he can showcase and sell the photos, and donate the money to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

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