Raves, Plastic Flowers and Flea Markets: Snapshots of Kyiv by Czech Documentarist Hannah Saleh

June 26, 2020

By Olena Lysenko, all photos by Hannah Saleh

Czech documentarist Hannah Saleh took a trip to Kyiv in summer 2017. “Travelling to my destination I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said. “I absolutely fell in love, not only with Kyiv, but with its young people, the people I observed with my camera, and the rest of the country I had a chance to see on my trip with Ukrainian workers I carpooled with”. Saleh’s grainy, colourful photographs of Kyiv were shot on a 35mm Leica Mini Zoom film camera and captured the last days of summer in the city. 

Hannah Saleh
Hannah Saleh

Born in Teplice, a Czech town close to the German border, Hannah Saleh is finishing her studies in Audiovisual Studies at FAMU, a film and television school in Prague. Her earlier photography projects have explored the topic of DIY decorations. In 2019, Saleh launched Adequate stuff, an independent video-platform that unites video art and civil activism. She also produced and co-directed YouTube series Karen Says, a witty, charismatic portrait of Prague-based drag queen performer and actress Just Karen.

NIGHT

“Going out in Kyiv was another intense and joyful experience. A hot, end of  summer night with this sort of typical smell in the air.  Throwing firecrackers on Zamkova Hill and drinking beers in Podil, surrounded by Euromaidan shields, was a great example of the city’s throbbing nightlife”.

Hannah went to the first edition of Brave! Factory music festival that took place at Kyivmetrobud, a large factory in Solomyanskyi neighborhood. “The rave at Brave! Factory Festival wasn’t at all similar to the parties I’ve been before. Taking place during Independence Day, all the beautiful ravers seemed to dance for their freedom”, she says. 

Her photographs captured ravers surrounded by raw, industrial architecture. “Watching them in the midst of the crowd was an absolute blast. The trauma and frustration from previous events brought something that was definitely worth fighting for,” Hannah explains.

DAY

During the day, Hannah visited the Kyiv Crematorium in Baykove Cemetery where she took photographs of plastic flowers. “All my artistic work is based on sustainability and working with objects and materials that I’ve found. Plastic flowers are my favourites. When I came to the cemetery, I was fascinated how they added so much colour to the landscape. I noticed a ditch nearby, where there were plenty of such flowers, partly covered in dirt, which had been carried there by the wind. I decided to “clean” the ditch by collecting the flowers as souvenirs. They have now become part of my art projects, finding their way, for example, into Karen Says”, said Hannah.

The final stop was the giant flea market at Lisova Metro. “The market was another to-good-to-be-true experience. Teased in a VICE documentary about Kyiv’s clubbing scene, the market made it on to my list of must-sees. I bought two full bags of clothes to use, somehow, in the future. Although I haven’t used anything I bought just yet, they’re part of my prop set – the fancier part which I’m very proud of, you know. Looking back, the shopping was too impulsive due to my excitement, but next time, I will know better, with a great hope it will happen sooner rather than later”.