I landed in Kyiv on a morning of alternating thunderstorms and sunshine in mid-May 2014. I spent the following three and a half weeks mostly in Kyiv, but also in Dnipropetrovsk, Kryvyi Rih and Odessa. While in Kyiv, I moved from house to house, staying with generous members of a death metal band. The musicians were all roughly my age (early 20s), and I began to consider what my life would be like right now had I been raised in Ukraine. With youth comes a degree of possibility that I have been able to enjoy and embrace. In Ukraine, possibilities—personal and political—are heightened to the point of seeming overwhelmingly uncertain instead of exciting. So began my exploration of what it means to be Ukrainian and young at this moment of transition and extreme precariousness.
I interviewed and photographed more than 50 Ukrainian “youth” aged 13 to 26. I distributed questionnaires, and the portrait titles come directly from their answers about how they would describe themselves and how they felt at this moment in their country’s history. I discovered a variety of faces, stories and struggles. From the tough, glassy-eyed 14-year-old who wouldn’t let me photograph his face except masked, to the 18-year-old Crimean refugee who left her entire family behind, from the 22-year-old dirt biker to the 13-year-old girl born HIV-positive, and the nudist couple on Hidropark, these people opened a door on what it means to be young in Ukraine today. As much of the world focuses on the regions’ soldiers and politicians, I hope to share some of the faces and stories of those who will, in the decade ahead, decide their country’s future.
One commonality in all the young people I met and photographed was determination. Whether determined to go to school or to war, to express one’s passion or reveal nothing, the collective strength and resolve that I encountered in every face and story surely offers hope for the future in Ukraine.

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