With photographs and testimony from Ukrainian youth, Stuck In Here explores new ways of documenting war
Beginning as an Instagram project and now published in a book by Revers editions, Stuck In Here aims to present both “the indescribable” alongside moments everyone can “recognise”.
- Olivia Hingley
- 2 March 2023
Finding the way to talk about war and the atrocities that come with it is an incredibly complex situation to navigate. And often, the mainstream media can routinely lead us to disturbing, traumatic images. At the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the photographer and visual artist Orianne Ciantar Olive sought to bring people’s attention to another reality, the ways where daily life finds a way to continue (albeit deeply altered).
After encountering the photos and stories of Ukrainian youth documenting life online – some still living in Ukraine, some having escaped – Orianne created an Instagram account in March 2022 for people to submit their images and words to, thus collating war-torn testimonies in a new, sensitive way. In her own words, the project, Stuck in Here, was created to “direct the gaze toward something else, to look off to the side. Not to diminish the horror, but to feel it in a place we don’t expect within ourselves”.
Elsa Seignol, founder of Revers Editions, stumbled across the project online somewhat by chance, and she instantly contacted Orianne to tell her how powerful it was. Then, after months of staying in touch, Orianne raised the idea of turning the project into a book with Revers. “I felt right away that it was valuable work, and well thought through,” Elsa recalls. “It wasn’t only sharing photos and stories, but also calling for a collective reflection on the role of social media and new means of communication.”
The submissions throughout Stuck In Here vary greatly. The first contribution came from 19-year-old Alexsandra, who sent images of her and her friends a few days prior to the war breaking out. Her commentary alongside shows how war throws ceremony and celebration into flux: “In a few days I will be 20, but I don’t know how to celebrate in this situation.” Also submitted are images of revelry; Dimitri’s photos of him and his friends socialising a few weeks into the war are combined with a more impassioned outlook. “We are Kyiv youth, and we didn’t need to be rescued!”. Whereas submissions like Misha’s show more candid, intimate photos combined with heartfelt recollections of first learning of the war breaking out; “I’ll never forget that morning on 24 February, at 7am my mum woke me up with a call: Misha, the war has begun.” It’s this variation of subject matter that makes the project so striking for Elsa. “The contrast of the images of parties and more intimate subjects that photographers decided to share is the strongest element in my opinion,” she says. “Those images alongside short and simple sentences can make us realise how we overlook situations sometimes.”
Logistically, the book encountered many challenges. One of the largest was transferring the content from Instagram and translating it into a book, and there was a lot of back and forth with the books designer Matthieu Becker. Of utmost importance was ensuring the safety of the individuals included, and so locations and full names were not included. This choice Elsa identifies as being somewhat mirrored in the original format of the project – what with Instagram standardising and using pseudonyms. Moreover, to reflect the language of Instagram, testimonies were kept exactly as they were transmitted, the language they were written with and with their “imperfections”. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the book in reflecting social media was its refusal of a linear chronology. Placing the submissions in a jumbled order refers to the ways in which apps like Instagram collate and create another timeline catered to each individual use.
First and foremost, Elsa and Orianne hope the book is one that touches people, and highlights the senseless nature of war. But, Elsa also states how they also hope the book is one that will instigate conversations “about curation and finding new ways to act and respond when conflicts occur”, and the role of the creatives in disseminating such narratives. “I hope we will be able to take a step back and integrate new habits in our practice, by trying to understand if we are the right person to tell the story, or if we could be useful in other ways,” Elsa ends.
Stuck Out Here: Petro (Copyright @ Petro, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.