Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
February 19, 2014

The Pictures Standing Out: Kiev Afire

Between the newswire and the Twitterverse, yesterday’s photos from Ukraine’s popular uprising were both intense and inescapable. Here’s a collection of the most prominent with some thoughts.

Maiden monument Kiev AP

If “Maidan Nezalezhnosti,” the central battle zone in Kiev, is more widely identified as “Independence Square,” you also see it referenced as “Euromaidan,” “the Maidan” or “Maidan Square.” (The caption with the photo in this BBC article identifies it as such.) Here’s the backstory on the “Euromaidan” term, a combination of words meaning “Europe” and “square.”  The word carries deep and broad associations for the protest movement. As I understand, the statue depicts three brothers and a sister, recognized as founders of Kiev by legend. More specifically, the woman, Berehynia, a Slavic goddess and spirit, has acquired the role of protectress through more twists of translation.

If coincidence, the term adds poetry to this dramatic uprising photo. Thinking about Western news consumers newly exposed to the term, “maidan” is not that distinguishable from “maiden.”

Kiev police shields AFP

Kiev improvised weapon AP

If gladiatorial or even Middle Earth analogies have been prevalent for some time in respect to the visuals of the democracy battle in Kiev, yesterday didn’t disappoint.

Kiev protester on fire AP

There were many notable wire photos of people on fire during the EU protests in Greece but I don’t remember anything as disturbing as this. Sometimes I’ll refer to a photo as “an instant in time” to purposely counter its ability to make us forget the fact. What is as horrific as anything is that we have no way to understand the fate of this protester — no clue to how bad it is or what happened next.

Kiev Square battle photographer

Certainly, photojournalists know there’s a rhythm to documenting an urban uprising. What’s novel about this photo though is the sense, particularly for a general audience, that the battle was so extraordinary, even the photographers took pause.

(photos 1, 4 & 5: Efrem Lukatsky/AP caption 1: Monuments to Kiev’s founders burn as anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, on February 18, 2014. Thousands of police armed with stun grenades and water cannons attacked the large opposition camp in Ukraine’s capital on Tuesday that has been the center of nearly three months of anti-government protests after at least nine people were killed in street clashes.photo 2: Sergei Chuzavkov/AP caption: An anti-government protester fires an improvised weapon during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, on February 18, 2014. photo 3: Anatolii Boiko/AFP/Getty Images caption: Police clash with anti-government protesters in Kiev, on February 18, 2014. caption 4: An anti-government protester is engulfed in flames during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, on February 18, 2014. caption 5: Anti-government protesters carry a wounded policemen during clashes with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest in Kiev, Ukraine on Feb. 19.)

  • Citizen

    Paramilitary police in America spray Protester’s and Occupiers with tear gas, tasers and mace. In the Ukraine they spray them with napalm and flame throwers.

    Anybody care to make a prediction about this scene being filmed in Detroit or Los Angles or even Stamford/Mountain View California in the future?

  • bks3bks

    What is going on in picture 3? I don’t believe the security forces use molotov cocktails.
    –bks

  • Richard Crews

    I’m not so sure we should be on the protester’s side’ they are very right-wing. The government was elected. We should be careful.

    • bystander

      Why are we obligated to take sides? Or, “be careful” about visceral responses to the photographs, REGARDLESS of which “side” they represent?

  • http://www.petercalvin.com Peter A. Calvin

    The first image brings to mind Delacriox’s “Liberty Leading the People”

Refresh Archives

Random Notes