Photographer Tim Smith’s images to illustrate a fundraising talk at Hull Truck Theatre, in support of the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal

When Ukraine became independent in 1991 it sealed the final collapse of the Soviet Union. Through photography taken at both sides of this pivotal moment, Tim Smith will explore how Ukraine’s history frames the current conflict, followed by a Q&A. Hosted by Hull Truck Theatre, ticket sales will be donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

In the run-up to Ukraine’s declaration of independence in 1991, the streets of Kiev were crowded with people engaged in political debate. This man is making a point to supporters of the old Communist order by brandishing a picture of himself as a young man, shortly before he was sent to Stalin’s labour camps like millions of other Ukrainians.

At independence the uncovering of a previously forbidden history helped to forge a new nation. This past also shapes the present.  Tim Smith’s photographs explore how Ukraine emerged from decades of Soviet inspired terror and totalitarian rule. In the run up to Ukrainian independence he witnessed political debate on the streets of Kiev and Lviv, when one of the main platforms for the nationalists was Ukraine’s ambition to integrate with Europe.

He photographed the dismantling of collective farms and of the statue of Lenin that towered over the Square of the October Revolution, which was renamed Independence Square. Despite official opposition and a chaotic transport system he traveled across the country photographing the emergence of Ukrainian nationalism, fuelled by the exposure of the crimes of the Soviet system and most graphically illustrated by the exhumation of mass graves of the victims of the KGB and their predecessors the NKVD.

Tim Smith was born in London and spent a nomadic childhood living in Britain, the Caribbean, East Africa and the USA. He is a freelance photographer, writer and researcher based in Yorkshire in the North of England. The region and its diverse communities have provided the inspiration for much of his work, acting as a springboard for many national and international projects. His main interests as a photographer and writer have been showcased in twelve books, including publications about Ukraine, Yemen, India and Pakistan.

Tim continues to work on self-initiated stories exploring migration, identity and the relationships between Britain and other parts of the world.

Tim Smith said: “I visited Ukraine at a pivotal moment in its history. The photographs I took at this extraordinary time explore a new nation emerging from the wreckage of the Soviet Union. Some thirty years later they offer a revealing window on the present conflict, showing how Ukrainians’ vivid memories of life under Soviet rule continue fuel the resistance of a population who remember life in a totalitarian regime. The images also illustrate why Ukrainians dread the threat of Russian occupation, as the ongoing war is accompanied by growing evidence that the widespread loss of life and destruction of the physical landscape is driven by Putin’s ambition to obliterate Ukrainian culture and identity too.”

Mark Babych, Artist Director at Hull Truck Theatre said: “Like many of our friends, colleagues, neighbours and communities in Hull, we have been appalled by the on-going war in Ukraine and its devasting effect on the millions of innocent people whose lives have been torn so brutally apart. The people of Hull have shown such incredible empathy for those affected by this war and we wanted to do something that added our voice to the city’s on-going support for the people of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with them.”

Tim Smith will present Ukraine: Memories of Empire at the Godber Studio, Hull Truck Theatre on Friday 10 June and will be followed by a Q&A.