As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has gone from days to weeks, sites of cultural significance have been leveled by attacks. The cultural heritage of Ukraine is under siege, and photographer Anna Senik is one creative who is showing what’s at risk of destruction. Her portraits, which she describes as “ethno-photography,” feature people wearing traditional garments that showcase Ukraine’s visual heritage, from headwear to jewelry to patterned dresses.
All of the outfits featured in Senik’s work are authentic, sourced from private collections as well as museums. She has worked with ethnographers, costumers, collectors, and assistants to create a catalog of ensembles that showcase customary motifs, floral headbands, and colorful beaded jewelry. It preserves the visual culture of Ukraine while celebrating the beauty of tradition.
Senik has been a photographer for over 10 years, but like many in Ukraine, she has chosen to pivot and serve in the Armed Territorial Defense and help protect her country during the Russian invasion. “Last year (or rather even a year and a half) was very happy for me,” she recalls to My Modern Met. “I focused only on art. There was a lot of inspiration, work, and travel for my team. In 2021, we made 33 series! Looking back, I realize how valuable and wonderful this time was.”
Senik is unsure of when she will be able to return to making art. “In the current conditions, it is impossible,” she says. “I evacuated my photo archive to a safe place and dedicated myself to the struggle for the freedom of my country. That was the only possible solution for me. But I really miss the opportunity to take photos. It was the meaning of my life, and I look forward to victory and peace to get it back.”
Although Senik is on hiatus from her portraits, she is using her photography skills as a way to show what’s going on in Ukraine from the perspective of her military operations. Follow her on Instagram for updates.