November 2013. Central Kyiv. Tens of thousands descend on Independence Square. Ukrainian and EU flags fly side-by-side. Just a week earlier, the government under then-president Viktor Yanukovych scrapped an EU trade deal, for closer ties with Russia. That decision paved the way for huge anti-government protests and then the 2014 Revolution, events which drastically changed the course of Ukraine’s future.
British photographer Joe O’Brien flew straight to Kyiv in early February 2014 after hearing news of the protests.
He says he wanted to witness the demonstrations first hand – to fully understand the reasons why people had taken to the streets. His pictures are dramatic – burning barricades, protester portraits and scenes of street battles. And now the photographer is showcasing his work in Ukraine – to serve as a reminder of how the country got to, where it is today.
On a tour of his exhibition in Kyiv, he shows us his favorite photo.
“This is my favorite photo because, to me, it captures the moments, emotion of when – the impeachment of President Yanukovych was announced….and to me, although people feel emotions, it’s a visual representation of the emotion.”
Before Ukraine’s 2014 Revolution, Joe O’Brien had already built up a vast portfolio of photos from different protests around the world. But for the artist, the experiences on the barricades in Kyiv was a life changer.
“It was the first time I’d seen death… and protesters being killed by their own police”
Looking at photos showing different episodes of Euromaidan events, students Roksolana and Svitlana can’t hold back tears:
“I look at these photos. 3 years has passed but I feel as if everything happened yesterday. I’m overwhelmed with grief. I’m surprised a British photographer managed to see and convey everything in such a way.”
“I was not at the epicenter of those tragic events, but we helped Maidan – brought food and medicines. Even now it`s hard to hold back tears.”
The exhibition runs at Kyiv’s National History Museum until February 21st.