I’m gravitating more and more towards photojournalism these days. For someone who tends to look inward and likes narratives that are about our personal internal lives, I do also feel an increasing pull away from a self-contained interiority lately. Or maybe it’s just a growing discontentment with beautiful, but story-less, images of people’s perfectly arranged breakfasts, and such. Honestly, I really do love those everyday images and that appreciation and recording of the simple elements that make up our day-to-day lives. But there is also a whole wide world out there, and perhaps we all need a good kick in the butt (including me) every once in a while to remind us to look away from our breakfasts and turn our interior, self-involved gazes to other people’s realities.
This is a way of me introducing to you why I find the work of photographer and experienced photojournalist, Bohdan Warchomij, so moving. Ali Moon introduced me to his work, as he’s her friend. Bohdan is based in Perth, Australia, working as a freelance photojournalist. He’s also spent much time working in Ukraine and East Europe, covering major stories such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. He’s worked for the Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Globe and Mail, the Sunday Times, and the Guardian, and recently published a book titled, Portrait of a Revolution published by backpackbook. He’s currently working in Perth for the Australian newspaper, the Sunday Times and AAP (Australian Associated Press).
There are two albums in his photo galleries on his website that I’ve been looking at over and over again in the last few days:
It’s easy to read these sets of images as purely ‘news’ items of specific events; as things to consider as you flick the channels or check the daily news, and then move on. But to me there is an undercurrent to these images, and what they say about our hopes and dreams, our cynicism, our corruption, and our idealism. I can’t help but relate these photographs to two articles I’ve read in the past week, which summarise all this.
One of these articles is on the Lance Armstrong saga: Lance Armstrong as Study in Corruption. The lines that got me at a gut level in this article were these ones: “The only thing that allows me a measure of peace is people like Betsy Andreu and Jia Ping. Had I not met with Ping after reading Oprah’s wretched Tweet, I would have got the feeling I sometimes get—this cloud swallowing every last molecule of optimism and fellow feeling. This sense that the human project is damned—because all too often, the Lance Armstrong’s of the world end up doffing the spandex, donning a suit, and starting to stump.”
And then there is this article: The Skin of Anxiety. Once again, I had a gut reaction to specific lines in the article: “What if it’s a skin of anxiety that’s pulled tautly across the entire surface of the world, over all the hills and undulations, and what if it has changed everything, forever, and for the worse, and what if we can never, ever escape from it?”
I know these articles don’t really relate to one another or to Bohdan’s photography on a surface level. But on a deeper level, I feel they do. I keep thinking the phrase the “skin of anxiety that’s pulled tautly across the entire surface of the world” sums up the feelings I have when looking at Bohdan’s photography, and specifically, those two albums I highlighted above. The collision between optimism and cynicism, corruption and idealism, is evident there, and it does feel like something fragile and taut that is pulled over the whole world.
There are those who view idealism and optimism as naive concepts in the face of all the corruption, hatred and greed we see around the world. But to me, cynicism requires less out of you. Idealism is difficult, it requires you to believe in something and fight for it, and hence, it’s harder to hang onto. Those lines about Armstrong: “the feeling I sometimes get—this cloud swallowing every last molecule of optimism and fellow feeling. This sense that the human project is damned” are so familiar to me as I watch yet another corruption case on the news, as I hear of another woman being raped, as I realise more and more how the world turns on naked and privileged self-interest, and I start to think maybe this whole “human project” really is damned. But as much as Bohdan’s capturing of specific events seems to convey these elements, there is also a strong sense of hope flowing through them. Or maybe I am once again reading too much into things, or reading through my own subjective frame of reference too much? Either way, there is something powerful about his photography that led me to write this, and I’m grateful to people like Bohdan who bring the world to us through their cameras and compel us all to think more and be more informed.
All images are copyrighted to Bohdan Warchomij and are used here with permission. Please ask him for permission if you’d like to share them on your own blog.