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#WowaRomaniuk : The Message (Ukraine)

There's nothing more pure and unique than an exchange with someone different at the first sight than you. Why ? Because you can always find similarities into difference that are so precious for what humanism could mean in these weird times.

I remember that my first trips in Europe and outside were a true revelation for me because I've discovered that young people which were speaking a different languages and knowing a different culture had common interests in life with me.

Imagine, you're living in your small village, reading some books that you think no one knows, listening music that your friends thinks weird and you find a Serbian that understand you in Budapest! That's what being youth mean and you truly discovered it with the exchange and interaction you share with people from abroad.

In fact, even if we think each country has his own culture, the true is that we are just an addition of influence and inspiration that exchange between peoples made possible. We are the result of this shared knowledge and arts is the most sincere proof of this beautiful energy that we are all invited to participate.

We've been separated, we've been divided and we are still into this sad evolution of the world that we are all seeing destroyed. What's remain it's always hope.

I found hope when I spoke with Wowa because I found back the feeling of sharing something with someone different. We need, as young people, to continue to create this precious exchange even when the pandemic is hitting culture all around the world. Continuing this exchange by using arts, we are in a way, resisting to the division and separation that this situation caused.

Countries make bombs with the goal of hurting peoples, instilling fears, proving a point. This is their answers to humanity. Makes me realize that the solution may have to come from someone else and as a young people we can have the possibility to answer back.

Is anyone working on a bomb that make loves each others? I believe we already have it.

It's called youth, arts and exchange and I invited you to join us on the battlefield.

Wowa Romaniuk for Radio Loubard

Hi Wova, I’m super happy to host you as the first Ukrainian on Radio Loubard! How you’re doing ?

Hello Radio Loubard. I'm glad that we have the opportunity to connect and communicate via the Internet in these times. Well, for me this is the first interview for a French audience, so I will try to tell you about my photography and how Ukrainian realities help me to take surrealistic photos.

Salut Radio Loubard. Je suis ravi que l’on ait l'opportunité d’échanger via Internet ces derniers temps. C’est ma première interview avec une audience française, j’essaierai donc au mieux de vous parler de mon travail en tant que photographe Ukrainien et la manière dont les réalités Ukrainiennes m’aident à prendre des photographies surréalistes.

Could you introduce yourself to your new french audience ?

I started doing photography in 2019, mainly documenting streets and my friends. I gradually became more aware of what I wanted to achieve as an artist and started to work on my personal projects. I learned to get inspired by everything that surrounds me, that’s why I always carry my camera and shoot everything I see, all sides of life in Ukraine: from brutalist architecture to absurd people's scenes of life. Photography for me has become a way to create a surrealistic world that is constructed in post-soviet locations.

J’ai commencé la photographie en 2019, en documentant surtout la rue et mes potes. Au fil du temps, j’ai commencé à prendre conscience de ce que je souhaitais accomplir en tant qu’artiste et ai commencé à travailler sur mes projets personnels. J’ai appris à m’inspirer de ce qui m’entoure, j’ai donc toujours mon appareil sur moi et capture tout ce que je vois, tous les aspects de la vie en Ukraine; de son architecture brute aux scènes de vie absurdes dans lesquelles les gens se retrouvent. Pour moi, la photographie est devenue un moyen de créer une vision surréaliste d’un monde construit dans un milieu post-soviétique.

You had the opportunity during the pandemia to shoot some protest in Poland. Could you explain a bit the context of these protests and what you did there ?

In the middle of 2020, I moved to Warsaw and started living with my girlfriend. In the daytime, we visited different art exhibitions, and in the evening I was inspired by her and took nude photos of her at our home. So my new photos are also about the female body, but I'm not trying to put glamor into them, just lightness with intimate boundaries. On 22 October, the Polish Constitutional Court imposed a near-total ban on abortion, making it practically impossible for women to legally end their pregnancies. This change in legislation led to a nationwide strike in Poland, with protests following in other European capitals and across the world. In my shots at Protests, we can see that what's happening in Poland right now. Most of the protesters were young people. Rebelliousness, but at the same time, solidarity with each other was everywhere on the streets. Romantic Times.

One-minute short film from photos I took in Warsaw

J’ai déménagé à Varsovie au milieu de l’année 2020 avec ma copine. Nous allions voir différentes expositions ensemble la journée, puis le soir, elle continuait de m’inspirer et je la photographiais nue dans notre appartement. Mes nouvelles photographies traitent donc aussi du corps féminin, mais je n’essaie en rien de le glamouriser, je tente simplement de le mettre en lumière dans le contexte intime. Le 22 octobre, la Cours Constitionnelle de Pologne a imposé la quasi interdiction de l’avortement, il est donc pratiquement impossible pour les femmes polonaises d’en finir avec une grossesse non désirée. Ce changement de législation a conduit à une grève nationale en Pologne, s’en suivant d’autres manifestations dans d’autres capitales Européennes et dans le monde. Dans mes photos de manifestations, on voit ce qu’il se passe concrètement en Pologne aujourd’hui. La plupart des manifestants sont jeunes. La rébellion mais également la solidarité étaient partout dans les rues. Quels temps romantiques !

Even if you’re not used to plan or to direct a stage when you shoot, I guess that shooting during riots was a bit different. How did you live this as a photograph and what was your purpose on it ?

Well, my photography is always associated with young people. And I felt that something was happening at the protests that I needed to capture. I was always with friends and as a photographer, I felt calm, except that we needed to see if the police were behind us when we were going back home. In addition, we always prepared ourselves before going to any protest, just like any other protester. Magnesium milk in case they hit your eyes with pepper spray, lawyer numbers written with a marker on your forearm just in case and banners – a basic protester starter pack.

Et bien, mes photographies sont toujours en association avec la jeunesse. Et il y avait quelques choses dans ces manifestations que j’avais besoin de capturer. J’y allais toujours avec des amis, et en tant que photographe, j’étais très calme, nous avions seulement besoin de vérifier si la police n’était pas derrière nous quand nous rentrions chez nous. En plus de ça, nous nous préparions toujours avant d’aller à n’importe quelle manifestation, au même titre que les autres manifestants. Nous prenions du sérum physiologique, nous avions des numéros d’avocats écrits sur nos avant-bras et des bannières, le starter pack basique du manifestant !

Post-Soviet architecture like brutalism has an important place in your work. What inspires you in these shapes ?

Nowadays, in post-soviet countries, this type of architecture is underestimated. Usually, these buildings are either destroyed or altered in such a way that they are stripped of the legitimate features of modernism/brutalism. One of my favorite modernistic gems is located in Kyiv. It’s called “Tarilka” by the locals meaning “plate” or UFO building, as it resembles an alien ship. The authorities wanted to demolish this building and build a shopping center in return, but people from Save Kyiv Modernism Community did not allow it and protested. As a sign of solidarity with the protest, I did a tattoo of this building on my leg.

De nos jours, dans les pays post-soviétiques, ce type d’architecture est sous-estimé. En général, les immeubles sont soit détruits soit rénovés de telle manière qu’ils ne correspondent plus réellement aux caractéristiques modernistes/brutalistes. L’une de mes pépites moderniste préférée se trouve à Kyiv. Il s’agit de la Tarilka, nommée ainsi d’après le terme local signifiant littéralement "assiette", car le bâtiment à la forme d’un vaisseau spatial. Les autorités voulaient le détruire pour construire un centre commercial à la place, mais la Save Kyiv Modernism Community a refusé et protesté. En gage de solidarité envers cette protestation, je me suis fait tatoué le bâtiment sur la jambe.

What does post-soviet youth look like ? What are their feelings about the past, the present and their perspective for the future ?

I like to give a second “visual life” to a past soviet era. in my photographs I rethink the scenes of the life of that youth, and with the help of the modern generation I recreate this surrealistic world. Post-soviet youth is a scenic picture that evoke nostalgic 80s & 90s youth and elements that fit the environment to create an atmosphere since my work is inspired by the spirit of the Perestroika Generation, which was a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s. At that time, such figures as Viktor Tsoi and Yanka Dyagielvea appeared, who are my inspirations, especially Viktor Tsoi / Kino (band).

I look mainly for characteristic figures that blend in with the surroundings and the atmosphere of these times. I choose a person which for some reason I think fits the picture.

J’aime l’idée de donner une “seconde vie visuelle” à l’époque post-sovietique. Dans mes photographies, je repense les scènes de vie de cette jeunesse, et avec l’aide de ma génération actuelle, je crée ce monde surréaliste. La jeunesse post-soviétique constitue un tableau évoquant une nostalgie des années 80 et 90, ainsi que des éléments, qui, mêlés à l’environnement, viennent créer une atmosphère qui lui est propre, puisque mon travail est inspiré par l’esprit de la Perestroika Generation, mouvement politique de réformation au sein du Parti Communiste de l’Union Soviétique dans les années 80. A cette époque, des icônes telles que Viktor Tsoi et Yanka Dyagielvea sont apparues. Ce sont mes inspirations, surtout Viktor Tsoi / Kino.

Je recherche surtout des caractéristiques emblématiques se fondant à l’atmosphère de l’époque. Je choisi des modèles qui, selon moi, collent à cette vision.

How can you describe your style ?

"Pseudo-documentary nostalgia with a pinch of absurdity and erotic surrealism". My early photos are a representation of the surrealistic world which is constructed in Post-Soviet locations. I want to give them strong emotions and also want them to fall into a reverie at the sight of soviet era utopian life. But in Warsaw my style changed, I started shooting more live documentaries and female bodies, but I'm not trying to put glamor into them, just lightness with intimate boundaries.

"Nostalgie pseudo-documentaire, avec une pointe d’absurdité et de surréalisme érotique”. Mes premières photos sont une représentation du monde surréaliste bâti dans des lieux post-soviétiques. Je veux leur conférer des émotions fortes et une sorte de rêverie à la vue d’une vision utopique de la vie à l’époque soviétique. Mais à Varsovie, mon style a changé, j’ai commencé à shooter plus de documentaire live et de corps féminins.

A lot of catholic idols or signs are shown in your photos beside a portrait of a youth girl. What do you like when you create this contrast ?

in Ukraine and Poland, religion occupies an important place in society. Most of the people here are Christians. Therefore icons of the Saints can be seen everywhere, at school, in a shop, or on a bus. So I just like to make such contrasts, I have no intention of hurting anyone's feelings.

En Ukraine et en Pologne, la religion occupe une place importante dans la société. La plupart des gens sont Chrétiens. Par conséquent, les icônes Saintes sont visibles partout, à l’école, dans les magasins, dans les bus. Donc j’aime créer et jouer avec les contrastes, je n’ai pas l’intention de heurter qui que ce soit.

How do you use the lights in your photos ?

I like to shoot during the sunset, for me, this is the moment when you can catch a ray of sunlight. Also before I push a button on my camera I try to imagine and create a color palette in my head and after that take a picture.

J’aime shooter au coucher de soleil, c’est pour moi un moment idéal. Avant que j’appuie sur le bouton de mon appareil, j’essaye d’imaginer et de créer dans ma tête une palette de couleur et ensuite, je prend la photo.

When I’m watching your works, I feel like I’m going for a walk with you and your friends in Ukraine. That makes it very interesting and it offers us a really pure sample of a lifestyle in Ukraine or Poland. What do you want other people to remember or see when they are discovering what you’re doing ?

My photography is eerie and at the same time emblematic of the post-Soviet cultural shift, toying with deja-vu, imagination, and intimacy to express authenticity with captivating cinematic characteristics. These visual documentations capture everyday life with a theatrical twist to create an uncanny scene. I want the viewer to feel in this post-Soviet “utopian” world such topics as absurdity and at the same time nostalgia for the old times. To see erotic scenes which were forbidden. All those locations that seem to be stuck in time in life can be revived through photography and looked completely different

Mes photographies sont sinistres et en même temps emblématiques du changement culturel post-sovétique. Jouant avec les déjà-vu, l’imagination, l’intimité, afin d’exprimer l’authenticité avec les moyens captivants et caractéristiques du cinéma. Ces documentations visuelles capturent la vie quotidienne avec une touche théâtrale pour créer des situations étranges. Je veux que le spectateur ressente dans ce monde «utopique» post-soviétique des sujets tels que l'absurdité et en même temps la nostalgie des temps anciens. Voir des scènes érotiques interdites. Tous ces endroits qui semblent coincés dans le temps peuvent être ravivés par la photographie et avoir l'air complètement différents.

What would you like to develop your art towards in the future?

In the future, I intend to deal with cinematography. I'm in love with Cinema and old movies that were filmed on 16mm, 35mm.

A l’avenir, je souhaiterais m’investir dans le cinéma. J’ai toujours été amoureux du cinéma et des vieux films shootés en 16mm et 35mm.

Will we have the chance to see you in France one day…?

Definitely! I'm going to come to Paris in the second half of October for a week. Definitely! I am going to come to Paris in the second half of October for a week. So, I will be glad to meet up with you. I love French culture and French people!

Bien sûr ! Je vais venir à Paris dans la seconde partie d’octobre pour une semaine. Je serais très heureux de pouvoir vous rencontrer ! J’adore la culture française et les français!

How do you see the future now? (Give us positive energy!!)

I see a future in which returns music like funk from the 1970s. Musicians are using acoustic or analog instruments without voice auto-tune. And young filmmakers are shooting their short films on old VHS cameras which look better than expensive commercial blockbusters for streaming platforms.

J’imagine un futur dans lequel la musique retourne aux caractéristiques funk des années 70’s. Où les musiciens utilisent des instruments acoustiques ou analogiques sans des vocals auto-tunés. Où les jeunes réalisateurs sont amenés à filmer sur des vieilles caméras VHS, ce qui rend toujours mieux que les très chers blockbusters dédiés aux plateformes de streaming.

Would you have maybe 3-4 artists to let us discover?

I think many are already familiar with the works of the first abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky. His works inspire me to create and do new things in photography.

I can also name two of my friends, artists from Ukraine, Yakov Burov and Hanne Zaruma.

Je pense que beaucoup d'entre vous sont déjà familier au premier artiste abstrait, à savoir Wassily Kandinsky, mais son travail m’inspire toujours dans mon travail de photographe. Je peux aussi citer deux de mes amis artistes Ukrainiens, Yakov Burov et Hanne Zaruma.

Other things to share with us (Books, movies, documentaries etc…?

Mustache Funk / Вусатий фанк it’s Ukrainian documentary film about the vocal-instrumental ensembles of the 1970s, which in the territory of the Ukrainian SSR became analogues of Western pro-band groups.

Trzy kolory / Three Colours - a film trilogy by Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski.

3-4 tracks ?

Скрябін - Оля / Skryabin - Ola (1993) Ukraine

Скрябін - Птахи / Skryabin - Ptahy (1995) Ukraine

Breakout - Poszłabym za tobą (1969) Poland

Maanam - Ta noc do innych jest niepodobna (1991) Poland

Do you want to say the final words ?

My advice for someone who is reading this and wants to be a photographer, expensive cameras do not prove that someone is a good photographer. You can even take photos on old phones like Nokia or old digital cameras.

Mon conseil au lecteur.rice qui désirent devenir photographes : Ce n’est pas une caméra qui coûte cher qui définit la qualité du travail d’un photographe. Tu peux même prendre des photos sur de vieux téléphones type Nokia ou de vieux appareils digitaux.


Special Thanks to Kim Marcovich for the translation <3

Remerciement à Kim Marcovich pour la traduction <3

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