A photo is a capsule which contains my own sentiments


Maksim Dondyuk is a 31-year-old Ukrainian photographer. He rose to fame because of his project dedicated to the tuberculosis pandemic that he worked on for two years, and he has been announced as the overall winner of Professional category in Fine Art Photography Awards for his series called “Culture of the confrontation”.

After serving in the military he graduated the State University of Trade and Nutrition in Kharkov. During his gig as a chef, he started taking interest in photography and soon became professionally involved in it. As of 2010, he works independently.

His photograph is purposely void of the authorial intent. Its perception level is what’s truly important. We can see the image where riot police “Berkut” fights the protesters. That’s the initial stage. The next stage is the subconscious one which is connected to our own experience, to our inner world—that’s when we can either perceive the image as a drawing or some iconic representation, or as a dream of ours. Then it affects us in a different, much deeper way.

“I try to invest my emotions into photographs. I firmly believe that a photo is not just a technical image but a capsule which contains my own sentiments.”

Dondyuk believes in no God, or anything else for that matter. Photography is his philosophy. It’s his tool of universal discovery that he uses to understand what’s important and what’s not, what’s good and what’s bad through his own experience and through his interaction with others.

“My occupation allows me to take on roles of a surgeon, a soldier, a pilot, of anyone really. I can turn into a TB patient for a year, live his life and go back to my own with his experience. Such experience is highly meaningful.”

The project about life of the tuberculosis victims was integral part of Dondyuk’s life. “I couldn’t go out to have a beer with friends in the evening because all my friends, all people within my social circle were the hospice patients. I’d gone into debt, lost my family, many of my loved ones didn’t want to keep in touch. They didn’t understand why it was so important to me. I lived with the ill folks, kept a blog where I posted my pictures, but over the course of the year no publishers took interest in those, even though I was offering it free of charge. When I talk about it at my lectures in Europe, students get puzzled. Because they wouldn’t start doing anything without a payment. They are taught this in college: first you receive a grant, then an order, and only then you begin shooting. And it certainly makes sense. You need to have a clear understanding of what to expect. I, on the other hand, have been swimming upstream.

“It’s okay to be told: ‘You are shooting sucks. I heard it many a time while photographing the TB patients! At first no one even thought that anything would come out of it.”

Persistence is vital for him. When he strove to achieve something for a while, he would inevitably encounter a moment of despair when he started thinking that the goal is unattainable, and all the rest were correct trying to talk him out of it. But the fact is, he stayed the course and did not get sidetracked until a new door finally opened for him. Patience is a great virtue.

“Do not take photographs too seriously. Do not get upset when something isn’t working out. Do not crawl out of your skin to have your photos published. Take on projects after you advance to a serious level.” That’s his belief firmly graven on his heart.

(All photographs by Maksim Dondyuk.)