At the beginning of June, photographer and long-time ZOOT contributor Perou visited Ukraine to document the second medical convoy organized by Medics4Ukraine, World Extreme Medicine’s effort to deliver critical medical supplies from the UK to Ukrainian hospitals and to soldiers on the front lines. While there, Perou found the devastation the Russian army had left in its wake.
Perou gives us a glimpse of the situation in Ukraine through his eyes. Below is a selection of his images from his second trip as well as excerpts from ZOOT’s conversation with the photographer.
Photos by Perou
Interview by Michaela Doyle
What did it feel like to be prepared to photograph soldiers at the trauma hospital and be met with ordinary civilians?
I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t photograph injured soldiers because that is what I wanted to do. I thought that would be a compelling story and set of photographs. So I was pushing quite hard, against sensible opinion, to go closer to the frontline to get the photos.
When I thought about it, I realised that actually, soldiers are expected to be injured, and although that’s tragic, it’s not so shocking—however shocking the injuries they receive are.
What IS shocking is civilians getting caught up in the war and injured. And their injuries are sometimes worse because they haven’t been wearing body armour.
It’s really their stories that they shared with us that hit hard, as well as seeing their injuries. It seems so totally unjust that these life-changing injuries and loss of their loved ones has been imposed on them.
They were just getting on with their lives when some little man with ego problems decides he wants to “make Russia great again” and sends his army to devastate and crush the neighbours.
How did your environment (in London and on social media) react to your reportage?
If I judge the value of what I’m doing by likes on my Instagram posts, I’m fucked. If I post a picture of Marilyn Manson on my Instagram, I get 3,000 likes. If I post a good picture of someone else considered “popular”, I get 1,000 likes. If I post a picture of a Ukrainian kid in hospital (at the time of writing this) I get 276 likes. One of the reasons I hate anti-social media.
I guess I’m not known for this kind of work, so it has to find its audience. I don’t shoot for anyone else: I only shoot for myself. I give zero shits about what people think of me and my work, so that’s liberating.
But I hope people will see the photos that I’m doing in Ukraine and hear my first-person account of what I’m seeing. To redress the balance of bullshit out there.
Thank you, ZOOT, for spreading the pictures and words further.
Mainly, the people commenting on my pictures shot in Ukraine are people that like my stance and my work, so there have only been a few Russian nuts and conspiracy theorists writing some offensive words, which I delete and block. I do see a lot of nonsense and lies on other people’s social media, and it drives me insane. The war of lies that needs to be fought hard.
Many images and all caption quotes appeared originally on Perou’s blog entries from 7-14 June. Read more about him and his trip to Ukraine at his blog, Perous Secret Diary.