I visited a memorial inside an old armory across the river from Kyiv. It played a slideshow, family photos of children killed in the war on a continuous loop, flickering candles projected around them, angels hung from the ceiling, stuffed animals lining the floor. It was like a crypt, an attendant at the entrance, soft music inside. I wasn’t sure who the memorial was intended for, its sadness both private and national. People peeked in, moving on after they got the point, but I stayed, child after child, infants, toddlers, and teens, looking out at me from when they were alive. I started taking photos of them, portraits in situ, but I selected this shot because it was the only one taken by the child himself, a selfie, the subject of his own picture, and then the subject of mine. It made me think about how we see ourselves, record our existence, create or become photographs. The internet is now an ocean of self portraits, but this boy had to die for his to catch my eye. © 2023 Benjamin Busch
Much of Kyiv is just a reflection of modern western commerce, malls offering no unique character. I had to walk to a marketplace far outside the capitol to find something more genuine. I wandered through the worn stalls waiting for something to find me. Most were closed, only a few locals selling clothing and books, no evidence of a war in the windows. But there was one offering a wide assortment of collectibles, a large American flag hanging beside it. This is my favorite kind of place, a surprising collage of images on display, and an accidental comment on weapons as a fascination. It was like an unsealed tomb filled with artifacts. It mostly sold models of WW2 and Cold War toys that attract young boys: battleships, tanks, and jets. But as I took this photograph, the war just miles away, some of this same machinery was being used to kill them.
© 2022 Benjamin Busch