“My camera serves as a means of separation”

“My camera serves as a means of separation”

In November 2013 protests against plans of the Ukrainian government to seek closer economic relations with Russia spawned countrywide demonstrations led by pro-European supporters.

The Ukrainian Sergii Kharchenko was one of the photographers who covered the Euromaidan movement from the beginning. While the revolution was still on its way, we had the chance to talk to Sergii.


 

Tell me a bit about you.

My name is Sergii Kharchenko, almost 34. I was born in Ukraine as a result of the encounter of an Ukrainian guy and a cute girl from Belorussia. Anyway, I feel myself as Ukrainian.

I started taking pictures when I was about 10. My uncle was a studio photographer and I was constantly hovering near him. Since then photography became my hobby.

Following graduation I worked as a journalist but after a year or even less, I realized that this was not what I really wanted to do. And a miracle happened: The newspaper where I used to work handed out assignments to all its photographers but one assignment remained uncovered. So I had to work both as a reporter and a photographer. And I really liked it! Later, I bought my own camera (a Nikon D300) and it is always with me since that time.

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At the beginning of December you have posted some photos on Twitter giving account of the protests that have risen in Ukraine. Since then the situation is getting tenser.

The situation in Kiev, especially on Independence Square, is unstable. The police attacks protest camps and forces them to retreat. So people keep close attention all the time.

Have you been there as a professional photographer, as a citizen journalist or as a protester?

I cover the pro-EU rally as a professional photographer for Corbis and an Ukrainian daily newspaper. Moreover I’ve decided to start a documentary project on Ukrainian mass protests.

Would you define yourself as a citizen journalist?

I do not define myself as a citizen journalist. Professional journalism is a little bit different.

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In some of those photos you seem to be standing “between enemy lines”? Wasn’t that dangerous?

About standing “between enemy lines”: As a photojournalist I know that the best pictures are shot when being as close as possible to the object. Every now and then people can respond with incomprehension … this can be dangerous, often is.

When in a situation like this, how do you manage to not get too much involved and focus on your photography?

A long time ago, I decided for myself that I need to separate my work and my out of work time – photography and my family life. My camera serves as a means of separation. When I have my camera around my neck, I am a photojournalist and nothing more. Then I do not have a personal life, a family, friends or something else. I’m focused only on pictures.

Which equipment do you need to cover such a huge protest?

At least one camera, lenses (70-200, 16-35, optional 24-70 but not necessary) and flash light.

SergiiKharchenkoProtestersAre you trying to take sides with your photos or is it important for you to stay neutral?

Neutrality is a main character of journalism. So if I shoot from one side of barricades I have to go to the other to be neutral and unprejudiced.

Is it even possible for a photographer not to communicate an opinion with your photos?

Not to communicate an opinion with your photos is really hard to do but it’s possible.

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What role do pictures taken of the protests and shared via social networks play?

I try to inform people about all the things happening by sharing pictures from the protests via social networks and blogs. Moreover it’s a good possibility to promote myself for I have a lot of editors from different newspapers, magazines and agencies as friends on Twitter.

Do you think the conflict will soon come to an end? What do you wish for?

For the moment, I’m not sure if the conflict will soon come to an end. It’s all about President. He does not want to change something. At least, for now.

Which advice would you give citizen journalists?

My advice to citizen journalists: Do not try to copy the Professionals, do not come close to dangerous places, do not stay between two sides of a conflict, be neutral and unprejudiced.

That’s it.

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More from Sergii Kharchenko on http://ukrainianreporter.jimdo.com/

Fotos: Copyright Sergii Kharchenko