Borderland: Stories from Donbas by Christopher Nunn
A rare glimpse of everyday life in the Donbas region, at the far eastern edge of Ukraine.
Made over a period of six years, Borderland: Stories from Donbas offers a rare glimpse of everyday life in the Donbas region. Situated at the far eastern edge of Ukraine, close to the border of Russia, this region is the site of the only active war zone in Europe. The exhibition is the premiere and first major solo show of award-winning photographer Christopher Nunn.
Nunn ended up in this war zone unexpectedly. In 2013 he travelled to Kalush, Ukraine, in an attempt to learn more about his grandmother who had arrived in the North of England as a displaced person just after World War II. A year later, Nunn was still in Ukraine when the Euromaidan protests started in Kyiv. In the subsequent five years, he has been present during the revolution, the early political chaos and ongoing war.
Nunn cares about people’s stories and how Donbas is represented. He was drawn to the small mining settlements where families relax by overgrown riversides, cramped apartment block kitchens, village bars and fading towns now on the doorstep of war at the very edge of Europe. The exhibition presents themes including the dynamics of families; masculinity of young men and fathers; freedom and togetherness, and seemingly inescapable ties with history.
Nunn’s images capture the quiet moments and the overlooked details that are mostly away from the flashpoints of fighting and the spotlight of international news. With a constant focus on people’s everyday lives, their personal narratives and subjective struggles, his photographs tell small stories that are part of a bigger picture.
Christopher Nunn says, ‘Everybody had a story to tell. I heard hundreds of stories, from the tragic to hilarious. The Donbas is, to me, beautiful and brutal; a place of comedy and pain. The conflict existed and the people I photographed existed too. Many times, I heard the tired line “we do not live here, we just exist”. Most of my photographs are about simply existing’.
Anne McNeill, Director of Impressions Gallery and curator of the show says “Nunn’s photographs are the antidote to traditional photojournalism, and the Western media’s usual representation of the conflict. What began as a personal project on memory and belonging has grown into an extensive body of work about the way people think and act with regards to their country, their collective identity, and their history in a time of flux.”
Borderland: Stories from Donbas is an Impressions Gallery touring exhibition curated by Anne McNeill.
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Christopher Nunn is a photographer based in the north of England, who works on personal projects and commissions throughout the UK and internationally. His work has been shown at Saatchi Gallery, London; Klaipeda Exhibition Hall, Lithuania; Neue Galerie im Höhmannhaus, Germany; Vyner Street Gallery, London; and Tokyo Institute of Photography, Japan. He was nominated for the Prix Pictet award (2015), selected as one of PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers (2016), and the winner of a Magenta Foundation Flash Forward (2017).
Most recently he was the recipient of the second Bob & Diane Fund grant for his work on Alzheimer’s, and shortlisted for the Tim Hetherington Visionary Award 2019. His work has been published internationally including i-D, De Correspondent, The Asahi Shimbun Globe, The Financial Times Weekend Magazine, Le Monde, Morgenbladet, The New Yorker, The Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal. www.christophernunn.co.uk
Our visitors say...
“A stunning display of humanity even while facing such hardships, shedding insight into a region our media rarely covers.”
“What an amazing exhibition… had me in tears. I’ve been transported to a place I’ve never been but leave feeling these images will stay with me.”
“Beautiful, raw imagery. Incredible.”
Christopher Nunn In Conversation
Christopher Nunn discusses his exhibition Borderland: Stories from Donbas with Pippa Oldfield, Head of Programme at Impressions Gallery, 26 October 2019. Part of our programme of talks supported by Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Photo by Victoria Kathryn