The photographer who befriended a group of youths in the midst of the Revolution – and captured their spirits for his new book
What’s it like to be a teenager in the Ukraine right now? At the end of 2013, Australian photographer Daniel King flew halfway across the world in search of the answer – and found himself flung head first into the Revolution. “Ukraine’s political system is generally over-centralized, fractured and weak, stuck between the clinch of Russia and European Union. This I could feel everywhere,” he tells us. Setting up camp in Kiev, King rented an apartment on the fifth floor of a block on Independence Square. After being moved to East Kharkiv, King encountered a group of Ukrainian youths who would go on to define the rest of his time spent there. Moving into an apartment together, King began to document his new friends, all of which has culminated in his new book, appropriately titled Ukraine Youth, we caught up with the photographer.
Why did you choose to document Ukraine and its youth?
Daniel King: I decided to focus on the youth of the Ukraine because it was clear to me that this true Eastern European country was about to go through drastic change. My work isn't focused on tragedy, more the opposite. This project focuses on the lives of Kiev’s teenagers. Portraying a calm, innocent time, during great political uncertainty. They are the future of Ukraine and yet, they have no reference point or guidance from older generations.
How have the people in your images lives changed since you first met them?
Daniel King: From the beginning of “rise up” I've been in contact with a few of my friends through email, social media. Originally they blew it off, didn't really want to talk about it. Perhaps it was embarrassing and also it might be that this is their only option. Leaving the UA for Europe or the US isn't very easy. Applying for visa's, etcetera.
It wasn't until around eight months after the Revolution and killings in Independence Square that I started to hear their concerns about being drafted and sent to the East to fight the Russian backed rebels.
They clearly knew that the world media was giving them a lot of attention, but they were growing angry that nothing was being done.
What was the experience of sharing the apartment like?
Daniel King: It was a lot of fun. We stayed in this old Soviet era block. The whole apt was covered in incredible wallpaper and insane furniture. This is where i shot the cover of the book.
What kind of spirit would you say these 'youths' have – even when up against such circumstances?
Daniel King: My impression of all the youth was that they are incredibly strong, individual, and content. Never was I introduced as someone that lives in NY, Just introduced as a new acquaintance.
You're Australian – how different was this culture from what you've experienced previously?
Daniel King: The two worlds couldn't be any different. But youth has a way to break that down, to dream and to stay positive and discover the next chapter of their lives.