Odesa – First Edition
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Time is different in Odessa. It is a city outside of time.
As a child growing up in Kiev, Yelena Yemchuk was fascinated by Odessa’s reputation as a free place during the Soviet era. The city seemed full of contradictions: “acceptance, but also danger. A place of jokes and characters, populated by outlaws and intellectuals.” She first visited Odessa in 2003 and returned in 2015 to begin photographing the city and its people over a four-year period. The book Odessa is Yelena Yemchuk’s visual ode to the city.
In 1981, when Yelena Yemchuk was eleven years old, her family emigrated to the United States from their home in Kiev, Ukraine. They could not tell anyone in their family what they intended to do beyond the “Iron Curtain” at the time, which meant they could never return to their home country. Ten years later, when Ukraine announced its independence, the artist was able to return to her home country to visit.
Yelena Yemchuk began photographing Odessa in 2015, taking pictures of sixteen and seventeen year old boys and girls at the Odessa Military Academy. The year before, Russia had invaded and annexed Crimea and there was fighting on the eastern border of Ukraine. Originally intending to document the faces of these young people going off to fight, Yelena Yemchuk realized the importance of giving more context to their lives. As a result, she began photographing Odesa and continued to work there until 2019.
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