VIDEO INTERVIEW | Okikone, American photojournalist: Being in a shelter in Ukraine is like being in a casino

Christopher Okikone / Photo: Sloboden Pechat / Metodi Zdravev

A total of 93 brave photojournalists through photography tell us poignant testimonies from the war in Ukraine in the book entitled "Ukraine: A War Crime". One of them is the freelancer Christopher Okikone, who captures the tragic moments that take place in the war face to face with the heart-wrenching scenes. The photos, from tonight, will be shown to the public through the exhibition "Ukraine: War Crime" in the multimedia center "Mala stanisa" in Skopje.


VIDEO INTERVIEW | Bachevanova curator of "Ukraine: War Crime": Injustices should be shown through photography

- Many deny some things that happened, that's why I want to prove through a photo that yes, this terrible tragedy really happened, there really was a bombing and dead people, the picture before us is real that this building no longer exists. I feel a responsibility to show that to the public - says Okikone Free Press.

Okikone has been taking photos since the beginning of the invasion, some of his photos were published in several media, such as the Austrian newspaper, "Economist" and others. You can see all his work on his Instagram account. He has been in this country much longer, he has been living in Ukraine for a decade.

– I saw a lot of photos and heard about the Russian revolution in 2014. I wanted to see with my own eyes, so I saw that there was a volunteer brigade. From my grandfather, I have heard a lot about the Soviet Union and how they are our enemies. Since I did not fully understand the whole situation, I wanted to know more. I teamed up with a soldier, we became very close, like brothers, he actually wrote the introduction to my photos in the book. Right now, while I'm talking, he's fighting in the war - says Okikone.

He says that he has two modes of operation during the war, at times living the normal life of a man and at times the abnormal.

- I live in a shelter in Donbask, but occasionally I also go to Kyiv. When I am at the front I am in the company of doctors, I photograph the same people in order to make a permanent story. In a way I live with them. It's like working in a hospital and it depends on the day, it can be calm, but suddenly ten injured people are brought to you. And when you're in a shelter it's like being in a casino, you have no idea what's going on outside. You are underground for a few days and suddenly late at night there can be an explosion. When I go outside I feel strange because of the light of day. When I return to Kiev I try to live a normal life, run, recreate and of course edit the photos, then I look at them for the first time. While I'm in the field, I don't inspect anything, I use every moment to take pictures - says Okikone.

In the case when he was in a place that was being bombed, taking pictures was stressful, because people were very scared and in a panic at that time, explains our interlocutor. Once tragedy strikes, as he says, nothing can stop you from taking photos but yourself, it's up to you what photos you take.

-After an attack, people are affected by sadness, they have lost everything in their life, maybe their loved ones, their home, they don't even notice you taking pictures. It is your decision whether and which moment you will immortalize, you should assess what could serve as photo-evidence in the future - Okikone said.

It's scary how indifferent a person becomes and gets used to the bad, says Okikone, who adds that sometimes in order to take a photo, dead bodies lying on the streets are jumped over, no one removes them from there.

See the whole conversation below:

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