When I arrived in Kiev on February 1st 2014, Independence Square was under siege, surrounded by police loyal to the government. The Euromaidan protestors who occupied Maidan prepared for battle, stockpiling homemade weapons and mass-producing improvised body armour. I set up a make-shift portrait studio, by the barricades on Hrushevskoho street. There I photographed the fighters against a black curtain, a curtain that obscured the highly seductive and visual backdrop, of fire, ice and smoke.
Rising tensions culminated in the worst day of violence on the 20th of February, which became known as Bloody Thursday. The following day President Yanokovych fled Ukraine. In all, three months of protests resulted in over 120 confirmed dead.
As the days passed in Kiev’s central square, streams of armed fighters were joined by tens of thousands of ordinary people, filling the streets in an act of collective mourning. Many were women, who often carried flowers that they had brought to lay as marks of respect to the dead. I stopped women as they approached the barricades to lay their tributes, and asked to make their picture. Most women cried when I photographed them.
It is clear to me that these two sets of images don’t make much sense without the other. They speak about different gender roles in conflict, not only in Maidan, and not only in Ukraine. Men fight most wars. And women mourn them. If the men show the ideal of the warrior, then the women show the implications of such violence.
These images are taken from MAIDAN – Portraits from the Black Square, a monologue of 96 portraits produced and published in 2014 by GOST books, which records the people involved in the Ukrainian uprising. My portraits were created inside the barricades using a make-shift studio, and depict the men who fought the running street battles, and the women who came to mourn those who died.