Socially committed photographer and photojournalist, born in 1969 in Luhansk, he lives and works in Kyiv. But is it still necessary to present his work today?
His masterful Passport series (1994-1995), oscillating between poignant documentary, historical testimony, lucid political criticism and work of art in its own right, once encountered, remains engraved in everyone’s memory. For it is indeed an encounter – that of two worlds confronting each other: utopia and reality, past and present, lies and truth.
If Chekmenev has always been interested in capturing the difficult and painful lives of those left behind or working in the shadows – the homeless, the mentally ill, the street people, the miners – all victims of a failed system, it has been first of all on a personal level. Like the people in Passport, captured in their miserable intimacy, worn down by years of sacrifice and deprivation, and in the twilight of their lives, possessing only a few scattered objects photographed, after a lifetime of hard work at one and the same munitions factory in Luhansk, Chekmenev’s father died «for nothing». By openly denouncing the failure and absurdity of the deceptive political system, Oleksandr Chekmenev has been able to show in an expressly disturbing way the results of an illusory dogma – all equal in poverty.
But why exhibit today a series from the post-Soviet era?
Because it has an existential and humanistic dimension that goes beyond its historical one. Timeless and magnificently destabilising, Chekmenev’s Passport series refers to our own disillusionment and decline. And then, authentic and realistic, it forces us to look at our present: has the situation for fragile people in Ukraine changed much since then? Probably a little, but certainly not enough. Inequality and poverty are still there, even though the political regime and ideals have changed. A bitter reality to which it is time to face up. Now.
1994 Ukraine, Luhansk city
Oleksandr Chekmenev was born 1969 in Luhansk, the city located in Eastern Ukraine, Donbass.
Oleksandr started his career as a photographer in a small photo studio in his hometown. When free from work he photographed people on the streets and at homes, who were affected the most by the economic crisis after Soviet Union collapse. His work gives an intimate and unique insider view on the transition of the coal mining region in the 90-s in Eastern Ukraine. He moved to Kyiv in 1997, where he works as a photojournalist.
His work has been published in New York Times Lens Blog, Time Magazine and Time Light Box, New Yorker Photo Booth, MSNBC, Quartz, The Guardian, Vice Magazine, Liberation.
In 2014 Oleksandr was named Photographer of the Year in Ukraine.
• 2011 “Donbass” by Kehrer, Publishing Germany.
• 2017 “Passport” by Dewi Lewis, Publishing United Kingdom
• Book “Passport” was shortlisted for the Author Book Award, LES PRIX DU LIVRE in Arles.
• 2020 “Lilies” by MOKSOP, Publishing Germany.
• 2020 “Pharmakon” by 89 Books, Publishing Palermo, Italy.
• MOKSOP Museum, Kharkiv, Ukraine.
• Mystetskyi Arsenal Museum, Kyiv, Ukraine.
• Märkisches Museum Witten, Germany.
• Ludwig Museum, Germany.