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An artist in Ukraine immortalizes the war in vintage black and white: The Picture Show: NPR

A bridge in Irpin, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

A bridge in Irpin, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

“Since the beginning of the war, my main goal has been to show this war through photography,” says Vladyslav Krasnoshchok, a doctor and artist in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv, was besieged for nearly three months. The northeastern city center is only 30 miles from the Russian border. Russian troops rapidly advanced on Kharkiv and struck it for weeks with mortars, heavy artillery and cruise missiles. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled, while others have taken refuge in the cellars and subway stations of the city.

Krasnoshchok also stood still as others sought safety further west or left the country. But he didn’t want to use underground bomb shelters.

“I’ve never used basements or anything like that,” he says, “because it’s damp down there. It’s cold and dark. I don’t need it.”

Krasnoshchok, 41, describes himself as a “geopolitical surrealist” painter. Once the war began, he wanted to document how the invasion radically changed the country.

Anti-tank obstacles block a road in Kharkiv, Ukraine in March.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Anti-tank obstacles block a road in Kharkiv, Ukraine in March.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

“I only work with physical photos,” he says of his choice of using an Olympus Pen S 35mm camera from the 1980s loaded with black and white film rather than a modern digital camera. He develops the film himself and prints pictures of him at his home in one of the residential districts of Kharkiv. “I really think my work is very different from digital images because it’s actually in front of you,” he says. “This is, like, real art, and that’s really important to the story.”

A ruined building in Kharkiv, Ukraine in March.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

A ruined building in Kharkiv, Ukraine in March.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

During the first part of the war, Krasnoshchok began wandering the deserted streets of Kharkiv with his camera. It was still winter. The snow contrasted sharply with the blackened and bombed apartment buildings.

“In just a kilometer and a half [almost 1 mile] radius from my house, there is a lot of destruction here, “he says.” They bombed a lot here.

He says he found the bare and destroyed landscapes visually striking. “They remind me of a kind of post-apocalyptic photo of cities like Chernobyl or Detroit,” she says.

A monument to the poet Taras Shevchenko stands in front of ruined buildings in the city of Borodyanka, Ukraine, in March.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

A monument to the poet Taras Shevchenko stands in front of ruined buildings in the city of Borodyanka, Ukraine, in March.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

“Why do black and white? Because with this method, I completely control the whole process,” he says. “From the moment I take a picture, to the use of chemicals, to the printing, to the framing, this is the purest way to do photography.”

A tank is found on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

A tank is found on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Krasnoshchok really wanted to do something different creatively from the many photographers documenting the war. “Today everyone goes digital,” he says. “There are so many of them, and I’m pretty sure if we look at all of their work, we’ll see a similar pattern to how they do it. With this physical method, I really think it’s going to be fine to allow me to find my point of view.”

The outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

The outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

In April, a dog is found in Vil’khivka, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

In April, a dog is found in Vil’khivka, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

“In my art, I’m trying to study the composition and structure of the image and its influence on the viewer,” says Krasnoshchok.

“I mostly stay here so I don’t miss anything interesting.”

Refugees take refuge in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Refugees take refuge in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Refugees take refuge in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Refugees take refuge in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine in April.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

He sent some of his negatives and some of his paintings to a friend’s home in central Ukraine for safekeeping. She posts many of her photos on Instagram.

But he grew up in Kharkiv. His house was handed down to him by his father. It’s not just that Krasnoshchok doesn’t want to leave, he wants to be here in his hometown right now.

Journalists document the war in Tsyrkuny, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in May.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Journalists document the war in Tsyrkuny, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in May.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

“A war is one thing,” Krasnoshchok says. “Sometimes in life you have it once. Sometimes you don’t have it at all.”

As an artist, he wants to absorb it. He says he’s not worried about getting killed or a bomb falling on his house because it’s out of his control.

“I keep 90% of all my art, all my stuff here because I believe that if a missile hits here or something happens here, I’m mentally ready to say goodbye to all of this,” he says, pointing to his living room, which is covered by his paintings. “This is a wooden house – if anything gets here, it will be utter destruction.”

The shells are found in a pile in Mala Rohan, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in 2022.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

The shells are found in a pile in Mala Rohan, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in 2022.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Wreck in Tsyrkuny, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in May.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Wreck in Tsyrkuny, a village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, in May.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok

Krasnoshchok says he first makes his art for himself and then hopes that through his art, the viewer will end up seeing the world differently.

Vladyslav Krasnoshchok sits in front of one of the many murals he painted in his garden outside his home in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Jason Beaubien / NPR


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Vladyslav Krasnoshchok sits in front of one of the many murals he painted in his garden outside his home in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Jason Beaubien / NPR

Vanessa LeRoy did the photo montage for this story.

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