Between the newswire and the Twitterverse, yesterday’s photos from Ukraine’s popular uprising were both intense and inescapable. Here’s a collection of the most prominent with some thoughts.
If “Maidan Nezalezhnosti,” the central battle zone in Kiev, is more widely identified as “Independence Square,” you also see it referenced as “Euromaidan,” “the Maidan” or “Maidan Square.” (The caption with the photo in this BBC article identifies it as such.) Here’s the backstory on the “Euromaidan” term, a combination of words meaning “Europe” and “square.” The word carries deep and broad associations for the protest movement. As I understand, the statue depicts three brothers and a sister, recognized as founders of Kiev by legend. More specifically, the woman, Berehynia, a Slavic goddess and spirit, has acquired the role of protectress through more twists of translation.
If coincidence, the term adds poetry to this dramatic uprising photo. Thinking about Western news consumers newly exposed to the term, “maidan” is not that distinguishable from “maiden.”
There were many notable wire photos of people on fire during the EU protests in Greece but I don’t remember anything as disturbing as this. Sometimes I’ll refer to a photo as “an instant in time” to purposely counter its ability to make us forget the fact. What is as horrific as anything is that we have no way to understand the fate of this protester — no clue to how bad it is or what happened next.
Certainly, photojournalists know there’s a rhythm to documenting an urban uprising. What’s novel about this photo though is the sense, particularly for a general audience, that the battle was so extraordinary, even the photographers took pause.
(photos 1, 4 & 5: Efrem Lukatsky/AP caption 1: Monuments to Kiev’s founders burn as anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, on February 18, 2014. Thousands of police armed with stun grenades and water cannons attacked the large opposition camp in Ukraine’s capital on Tuesday that has been the center of nearly three months of anti-government protests after at least nine people were killed in street clashes.photo 2: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP caption: An anti-government protester fires an improvised weapon during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, on February 18, 2014. photo 3: Anatolii Boiko/AFP/Getty Images caption: Police clash with anti-government protesters in Kiev, on February 18, 2014. caption 4: An anti-government protester is engulfed in flames during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, on February 18, 2014. caption 5: Anti-government protesters carry a wounded policemen during clashes with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest in Kiev, Ukraine on Feb. 19.)