JTF (just the facts): A total of 12 color photographs, framed in black and unmatted, and hung against grey walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are digital chromogenic prints on Fuji Crystal archive paper, made in 2014. Each print is sized 20×24 and is available in an edition of 15. A monograph of this body of work is forthcoming from GOST Books (here). (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: Earlier this year, protests erupted in Kiev after the Ukrainian government began to actively turn away from Europe and reinforce its ties with Russia. What started as peaceful civilian demonstrations turned increasingly bloody as the government cracked down on the opposition, ultimately leading to more than 100 confirmed deaths across a three month period. During the conflict, documentary photographer Anastasia Taylor-Lind set up a makeshift portrait studio in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), making formal images of the people taking part and caught up in the unrest. The resulting photographs tell a layered back and forth story, alternating between fighting and mourning.
Richard Avedon highlighted the powerful isolating effect of a blindingly white backdrop, and Taylor-Lind has inverted that idea with her use of a dark black curtain. It too removes the peripheral distractions of the setting, but the difference comes in its implied mood – the blackness surrounds the subjects with an enveloping severity and somberness that matches the grimness of circumstances.
Her fighters are a rag tag band of heroic improvised soldiers, sporting mismatched camouflage and homemade weapons. Pins and arm bands tell the story of their allegiance, but the ski helmets, duct taped billy clubs, and riot gear shields are evidence of their amateur status. Steely confidence is balanced by bleary eyed, unshaven weariness, especially as the bruises and bandaged limbs start to multiply.
While most of Taylor-Lind’s protesters are men, her mourners are universally stoic women, each bearing a bouquet of flowers. Tulips, carnations, and roses are held with defensive reverence (mirroring the swaggering weapons of the men), the brightness of the blossoms popping out from the darkness of the setting. From young girls in parkas to older women in more formal winter coats, the mourners seem ready to tell their stories, with a spectrum of sadness, resignation, and determination etched on their faces.
Seen in alternating rhythm, Taylor-Lind’s back and forth comparison between civilian response and harsh reality is sobering – resolute intention mixes with a sense of real pain, giving a complicated, personal face to the conflict. Her pictures help us to identify with the choices being made and to understand the consequences of those actions. When viewed as a complete interrelated group, the photographs find that intersection point between documentary photojournalism and art, turning a specific on-the-ground incident into something universal.
Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced at $2000 each. Taylor-Lind’s work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best/only option for those collectors interested in following up.