The photographer captured fortitude, desperation and resolve in a city under attack.


TIME’s Interview with Volodymyr Zelensky


December 20, 2022, at the Forbes Ukraine charity auction in Kyiv the portrait of President Volodymyr Zelensky by Alexander Chekmenev taken  for the cover of TIME magazine was sold for 150 000 $. All the money was sent to charity to purchase generators for more than 100 children's institutions that suffered during the occupation by the russian aggressors.

Alexander Chekmenev after the collapse of the Soviet Union  was an ethnic Russian and Ukrainian citizen. Ethnic identity and citizenship are no more clear 20 years later. The mostly Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine where he was born and raised are embroiled in a sometimes-violent struggle between the Ukrainian government and a separatist movement.

The Soviet Union had just collapsed a few years earlier, and like all of its newly independent states, Ukraine had to go through the process of issuing new passports to all of its citizens, roughly 50 million of them.

Times were tumultuous in post-Soviet eastern Ukraine when Alexander Chekmenev started out as a young photographer in his home city. “Like the whole country, Luhansk in the mid-1990s was suffering from economic collapse and the rise of crime. Those times were called the ‘evil 90s’,” he says.In 1994, all old passports from the Soviet Union had to be changed to new Ukrainian passports,” he says. “People were lining up at photo studios. Photographers could earn a car in a season.”

Text by  Katya Petrowskaja

Eine finstere Frau hält sich einen Finger an die Wange, dorthin, wo das Lächeln beginnt. Ein Mann ist mit seinen eckigen Formen einem Engel von Paul Klee irritierend ähnlich. Und ich erinnere mich plötzlich an eine Kiewer Kirche, in der Michail Wrubel am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts die zwölf Apostel nach posierenden Patienten einer Anstalt gemalt hat.


Ukrainian Servicemen

The Ukrainian photographer Alexander Chekmenev spent 2014 at the Main Military Clinical Hospital, in Kiev, where he photographed dozens of men who were injured during the protracted conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian authorities. They are mostly Ukrainian servicemen,  but some are members of volunteer battalions that offer the Army additional support. All were wounded in battles with pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In 1994, three years after Ukraine become independent from a dissolving Soviet Union, the government ordered that USSR passports and identity documents be replaced with Ukrainian ones. Alexander Chekmenev was a young photographer working in a photo studio in the city of Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine, when he was assigned by a social aid organization to take passport pictures of the ill and elderly people who could not leave their homes.

Photography Exhibition of Alexander Chekmenev opened in Mystetskyi Arsenal National Cultural-Arts and Museum Complex within the frames of the large-scale project «Ukrainian landscape. Beyond despair”. This exposition presents a photographic portrait of injured Ukrainian soldiers who were involved with the Anti-Terrorist Operation in eastern Ukraine, as well as portraits of the civilians of Slavyansk and vicinity, where the military operation has continued till recently.

Documentary photographer Alexander Chekmenev about why he photographs misfits, which photographs he never exhibits, what he learned in his one year in an ambulance and when he realized he had changed forever.

Twenty years after the series was created, it was published as a book by the British publishing house Dewi Lewis Publishing. Bird in Flight talked to Alexander about his most important series to date, and asked photographers Donald Weber and Alexander Lyapin about their view on Passport.

26 January 2017

Book Review Passport

After a photograph of the artist’s own passport and a brief introduction, the book begins with a series of headshots. These photographs are of various sizes and printed on semi-translucent paper. Surrounding the headshots are the black outlines of rectangles, which serve to show what the size of the passport would have been in relation to the photograph. While this section of the book acts as a curious introduction, it is nowhere near as powerful as the images that follow shortly after. 

The remainder of the book contains some of the most intriguing, powerful, unique, and unsettling environmental portraits that I have ever seen.




Alexander Chekmenev created a series of portraits of protestors, called Warriors, just as they emerged from the street battles. 

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