The graffiti that Sasha is happily sticking up a finger to essentially translates as “Putin, fuck off”. When we were walking around Lviv’s Old Town and saw this, we had to seize the opportunity to get a shot with it. It turns out that we ended up using one of the “ПТН ПНХ” images for the cover our Elska Issue (01) too.
As we walked around Lviv, this wasn’t the only piece of anti-Putin graffiti we saw. It was pretty commonly tagged on walls throughout the city, and there were also anti-Putin t-shirts for sale in the market, Putin-shaped chocolates to bite the heads off of, and even toilet paper with Putin’s face on it! (I don’t recommend buying it though – I was told by my friend Matt, who accompanied me for the Lviv shoots, that the only the first few layers of sheets have his face printed on them and the interior paper is blank).
While I’m generally pleased to see such political liveliness in a culture, I worry about how much anti-Putin sentiment turns into anti-Russian sentiment. Whenever I directly brought this up, people were quick to assert that they of course knew the difference between people and politics. But it depended how I asked the question. If I just said something like “bloody Russians!”, I’d get almost universal agreement. Few made a point to clarify that their anger was toward the Kremlin specifically unless I pushed them into that direction. This is nothing spectacular. We all love to hate our neighbours as a collective, and then only change our tone when the collective becomes an individual.
Ultimately my choosing of a “Fuck off Putin” image for the cover was a controversial choice, but I chose it because Ukraine – the country dedicated to Issue (01) – is in a war with Russia, and there was no better way to set both place AND time. Personally I have faith that anyone with half a brain and half a moment to think about it will realise that my cover is not anti-Russian. Frankly most who see it on a shelf won’t even know what it means. It’s just a cool picture of a cute guy with some foreign looking letters behind.
But for the record, I do wish Putin would fuck off.
To see more of Sasha K., pick up Elska Magazine Issue (01) Lviv, available in select shops worldwide or for order at www.elskamagazine.com
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