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An Itinerant Photographer
Mykola Ivashchenko is a master of art photography. Educated as a biologist, he came to devoting himself fully to photography, through love of nature, travel and of his native land. His portfolio of what he loves and captures on photographic images is one of the largest in Ukraine.
Yevhen Budko, Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine senior editor, talked to Mr Ivashchenko, took a good look at the photographs — and was impressed.
Mr Ivashchenko lives in Kyiv and works for the fashion publisher Burda, a brand well known in the world. He provides photos for a column, Moya krayina (My Country) in Liza, one of the magazines published by Burda. In the past fourteen years of active traveling Mr Ivashchenko has accumulated a great many photographs that he took during his trips. His photo gallery includes pictures of well-known and unknown places, nature reserves and historical landmarks, feasts and holidays.
On average, he takes two or three trips a month to various destinations in Ukraine, looking for events and sights that could provide subjects worthy of being photographed. Not everyone, no matter how much one loves photography, would be prepared to spend so much time away from home. Mr Ivashchenko says that among other things his readiness to experience all sorts of inconveniences in search of good photographic material was something that recommended him, among other things, to the Burda publishers.
At the early stages of his work for Burda, the photographer traveled getting very little from the company for traveling expenses, but his enthusiasm never flagged. Even these days, the royalties that he is paid for his photos are hardly enough to cover his traveling expenses and he has no intention of spending any more of his time on additional income — he wants to travel as much as he can.
His love of travel has a long history. In his young days he liked to photograph sports events and he travelled to watch them. After a friend of his had had an accident during one of the trips, his parents insisted that he discontinue his voyages. By that time he had developed an interest in biology and went to study at the Department of Biology at Shevchenko University in Kyiv. But his thirst for travel unquenched, he continued to travel joining biology research expeditions and tourist trips which took him to many destinations in the former Soviet Union in the north, east and south. Incidentally, his daughter has inherited her father’s fondness for travel — she has chosen canoe trips down rivers as her main tourist activity.
His interest in photography also has a long history, but in his younger years Mr Ivashchenko never thought that it could be an occupation of a lifetime that was not only exciting in itself but paid well too.
In the early nineteen-nineties, when Ukraine lived through a period of economic hardships, Mr Ivashchenko had to do all sorts of odd jobs. Luckily, his sister who worked as a designer, remembered her brother’s interest in photography and suggested that he try himself as a photographer.
He began his professional photo career by taking photos of medicinal herbs for medical reference books — his biological education came in handy. Then he moved on to taking pictures of still lifes for cuisine and cook books and recipes magazines. At last he landed a job at one of the Burda magazines. “I do like working for the magazine though I can’t say it pays well enough. The magazine has a large circulation and that means many people can learn that in Ukraine, not only in distant and exotic lands, there are a lot of very beautiful places worth visiting. I find it to be a sort of a patriotic mission to let people learn more about Ukraine through my photographs.”
He does not share a desire of many Ukrainians to go to Turkey or Egypt or other places of that touristy kind for holidays — “The Crimea is not inferior, as far as the beauty of nature and climate are concerned, to any of those overhyped ‘glamour places. And there are many other great places to go to and enjoy your visit or trip in Ukraine besides the Crimea too. This year, for example, I spent holidays canoeing down the Rivers Psyol and Seym in the Central Ukraine. I’ve enjoyed it so much! No five-star hotel holiday can compare with the kind of the memorable experiences that I had!”
He does travel to far-away places too and appreciates what they can offer as far as the sights and natural beauty are concerned. “But I tell you — in Ukraine there is so much worth seeing and experiencing!”
Asked if there are places that he particularly likes in Ukraine, Mr Ivashchenko finds it difficult to answer. “There are so many such places! Take the monastery in Novhorod-Siversky, for example. If you just down at a vantage point near its wall, and look down at the River Desna, at the forests, meadows, lakes and fields, you are transported into the world of great, serene beauty! It’s an excellent place for quiet contemplation… And when the fall comes, the autumnal colors in all of their shining glory take your breath away… Or take the canyon of the River Hirsky Tikach in the Carpathians — it has few rivals in grandeur and magnificence… The village of Hubkiv in the Land of Volyn with its ancient castle, nearby mountains and meadows carpeted with wild flowers can leave no one indifferent.”
Mr Ivashchenko cannot think of life without constant travel. Because of the economic crisis that hit Ukraine hard in 2009, the number of commissions for photographs that Mr Ivashchenko used to get, shrank but “it gave me more time for photographing things away from the hustle and bustle of urban areas, in the quiet of nature. It’s so soothing on the soul.”
His photos do promote places he visits. He hopes though that tourists will not begin to flock there in the immediate future — “they will bring with them all that trash that is an eyesore all throughout Ukraine. I hope that when they do start discovering the beauty of nature for themselves, they will learn to appreciate it enough not to litter. And may my photos contribute to developing that appreciation!”
A picturesque valley in the Land of Podillya. Spring of 2010.
Wild pony in the Nature Preserve Askania-Nova.
A hill in the vicinity of the village Podobovets.
Festival Smachny Spas in the village of Spas,
Children painting pysanky (Easter eggs)
Rime at the wrought-iron fence.
Lake Synevyr in the Carpathians. Fall of 2007
A statue in the Oleksandriysky Park. Bila Tserkva,
Photos by Mykola Ivashchenko