Maxim Dondyuk

How and when did you come up with the idea of working in photography?
I came to a photography professionally at the third try. The first experience I had when I was 5, with my mother, who was enthusiast, I used to watch how she processed family photos in a darkroom. Later I was given my first soviet camera SMENA, and started doing my own photos. After the collapse of the Soviet Union to buy and process film became more difficult and expensive, so my mother stopped doing it and me too. The second try was at the age of 12, than I joined the photo club, began shooting film and processing photos myself. But my enthusiasm didn’t last long. The third time I came back to photography was at the age of 24. I had a routine job, which I went every day, year after year, time flew quickly and nothing changed in my life. I understood that I need some hobby. I became interested in photography. All my free time I studied photography, read all kinds of literature and practiced. It allowed me to travel around the region I lived at that moment, after I started travel around the country. With the help of photography I can live the live of any person, to be present during different events and to empathize with them. My professional career began in Ukrainian media as a photojournalist in 2007. Since 2010 I’m a freelancer, work on creating and promoting my own documentary projects. Photography it’s my personal visual diary. It’s not a hobby or work for me, photography it’s my philosophy and religion. I don’t believe in God, but photography helps me to discover and
understand this world.

What equipment do you use?
Everything is quite simple, starting from 2015 I use Nikon D810, before I had Nikon D3s, which I won at the contest for my project «TB epidemic in Ukraine». As for the lenses, I use only one lens 35mm, it’s an old film lens with autofocus. I’m used to this focal length and don’t need zoom. I must be half a meter from the object. It is very close distance, you began to feel the same emotions, fear, happiness, sadness. When people look at such photos, they also feel emotions of your character. I also have 50mm film lens, but it’s more like emergency lens, as it happened that 35mm broke or in case I need to make some portraits for the magazines. I don’t like artificial light
and don’t use flash. I take photos only in RAW format, as color correction is very important for me, I pay special attention to it. And I don’t use continuous shooting.

Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
Mostly I’m influenced not by photographers but by writers and painters. Each time I come to a new country, I visit museums, galleries. I love paintings of artists who worked in realism. They painted such important battle scenes and historical moments but never forgot about aesthetic side. Their paintings are very beautiful.

How would you define your own photographic style?
I’m a documentary photographer. But emotions and visual language are more important than facts (what, where, when?). I feel myself more like an artist than a photojournalist. What, from your point of view, are the major challenges in photography? I work a lot with international magazines and know that in this sphere there is a big problems now. They already don’t have such budgets as some years ago, and mostly really good stories were shoot by photographers independently, without assignments. But if to talk about contemporary
photography, I think in this field everything is more than good, and it has great perspectives.

Can you describe your workflow for „culture of confrontation“?
In mid 2013, because of a number of reasons, I seriously thought about documentary films. It seemed to me that they tell socially relevant stories much better than photography. I decided to make a documentary film about one of my projects about the Crimea Sich. In summer 2013 I with my brother, went to the Crimea Mountains, spending the last money for the equipment. It was an attempt to find answers to the questions that griped my mind. After I was selected to a grand for directors of documentary films, it was held by an American Documentary Film Festival in Ukraine. During that period began Euromaidan in Ukraine. Prior to December 1, 2013 I couldn’t understand whether I need to continue working on my film, or to go to Maidan with a camera. I also didn’t know what I want to do at Maidan, to shoot video or photo. So at the beginning I just watched, analyzed, tried to find the answers. But, suddenly, I was given the second photographic
breath and understood that I looked at Maidan through associative images, which contains the second associative level. I wasn’t trying to show what was happening as a photojournalist. With my photos, I wanted to awake people’s strongest associations and emotions, wanted them to see what I saw. For me it wasn’t a revolution at the Independence Square, in front of me opened battle scenes from legends and fairy tales. During clashes between police and protesters, I felt myself like in a parallel, fictional world. It was a battle between good and evil, light and shadow, fire and frost. On the revolutionary canvas creepy bloody scenes interwove with incredibly beautiful, from visually
side, views. The line between reality and fiction had gone. I understood that photography for me isn’t just the way to tell the story, but also a visual image that holds emotions, allows the viewer to interpret the reality and think about important life questions.

Why do you take this pictures (culture of confrontation)?
I began to shoot for the reason that it happened in my country, in the city where I live. At some
point I realized that it touches me personally, and this is a historic moment in my country.

Please support the Project „Culture of Confrontation“ on Kickstarter

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Wir danken Maxim Dondyuk und Irina Kolomyets für ihre Zusammenarbeit.
Thanks for your collaboration Maxim Dondyuk & Irina Kolomyets