Photographer Patrick Wassmann arrived in Mukachevo, Ukraine, intending to stay for one day, and ended up staying for two months. Upon his arrival, Patrick recalls the atmospheric setting: “The sun was setting, painting everything in this surreal garden colour.” Though he didn’t speak a word of Ukrainian, he didn’t let this hold him back from getting to know the locals. After securing accommodation at a hostel, he says, “I started talking with this young guy who straightaway picked up that I was not from around there," who proceeded to show him around.
“Ukrainians are extremely curious in general and so am I, so he asked if I wanted to meet his friends and I politely agreed,” the photographer tells It’s Nice That. Consequently, a photography series naturally evolved for Patrick, documenting the lives of his new friends. Dissimilar to his other work, the impetus for picking up the camera had nothing to do with a problem that Patrick wanted to express through photography. He barely thought about the photographic output for this series at all, “I did not know I was even doing a project”, the photographer remarks on the intuitive development of the work.
“For me, this project is about Ukrainian youth, and youth in general,” adds Patrick. “Themes such as friendships, frustration, helplessness, confusion, freedom and nature” imbue the imagery with a sense of nostalgia and innocence. “I spent a lot of time with them and the project reflects that,” says Patrick on the intimacy of his shots.
In this way, the narrative of Mukachevo and its inhabitants is constructed with familiarity. The trust between the subjects and the photographer is evident in their relaxed facial expressions and carefree movement. As a result, the series creates a “story that is very personal and at the same time, universal and banal.” Taken during a tumultuous time for Ukrainian’s, at war with Russia and in a “very bad economic position”, the images offer a softer insight into the Ukrainian story. It depicts a universal coming-of-age story regardless of the problems that plague the adults around them.
“An old mentor of mine always told me: ‘We need projects like these, projects that show us how to be human’,” says Patrick. Though the photos appear somewhat ordinary, doused in everyday activity and youthful virtue, the series “gives us a chance to really reflect on ourselves in a way we wouldn’t normally” by showing the plain banality of youthful existence.
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