Joseph Sywenkyj is an American photographer of Ukrainian descent who has lived and worked in Ukraine for approximately 20 years. Among his many awards, Joseph was the recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography and the Aftermath Project Grant. He was the recipient of two Fulbright Awards, one as a student and the other as a scholar.
Joseph has worked in dozens of countries as varied as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iraq and has worked for numerous prominent publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Stern, Vanity Fair, and GQ.
Joseph’s work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums including Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland; Les Rencontres d’Arles in Arles, France; Taras Shevchenko National Museum, Kyiv, Ukraine; George Eastman House, Rochester, New York and the United Nations Visitor’s Lobby in New York City among many other venues.
Wounds is an intimate study of Ukrainian activists and soldiers who were severely wounded during the Euromaidan Revolution and Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine. It focuses intensely on individuals and their families who fought for justice, democracy, and Ukraine’s continued independence.
This ongoing documentation, which I began in 2014, reveals what are likely the most vulnerable and painful moments in the lives of these men and women. The physical and psychological wounds ranges from losing loved ones, nerve damage, multiple amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and excruciating physical and psychological torture. Many battle post-traumatic stress disorder while some have become addicted to painkillers, alcohol, and illegal substances.
A central objective of this project is to give Ukrainians an unvarnished perspective of how those wounded in war heal over time. This can guide and comfort those confronted with similar situations. For the international audience, it helps to serve as a reminder of the human cost of war and the imperative of supporting Ukraine and defending democracy.