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New exhibition in Exeter shows the brave work of Ukrainian photographers

Published: 21 February 2023

Exhibition at Maketank

People in Exeter are being invited to see with their own eyes the brave work of Ukrainian photographers from behind the lines of the war-torn country.

‘With (Y)our Own Eyes’ – Brave Work of Ukrainian Photographers opens on Thursday (23 February) at Maketank, at 5 Paris Street, Exeter.

A day later – on Friday 24 February – and to mark the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine – a vigil in support of Ukraine will be held in Bedford Square at 5.30pm.

Maketank, Exeter’s cultural laboratory, and the Devon Ukrainian Association are presenting an exhibition of frontline photography by Vlada and Kostiantyn Liberov.

Among the first civilians to enter Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region just behind the successful counteroffensive that forced the Russian military to retreat, the Liberovs have seen with their own eyes the horrors of this war and the joy of ‘liberated’ Ukrainians.

The Liberovs have travelled the country placing themselves in the heart of the conflict in Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Bucha, Irpin, and many others. Speaking of their current work, Kostiantyn Liberov has said: “Our main task is to make sure that no one forgets about the war. It may sound strange, but we want to show all these horrors beautifully.”

They use social media to amplify the everyday experience of Ukrainian people and its defenders. Their photographs have appeared in magazines, newspapers, television and radio across the world, as well as on the social media pages of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and elsewhere.

Over the seven months of the invasion, the couple have regularly come under fire, steadfastly trying to be as close to the fighting as possible. “We are guided by the excellent quotation from [American-Hungarian war photographer] Robert Capa, who said, ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough,” said Vlada.

The Liberovs’ profoundly moving photographs were last exhibited at Maketank in June 2022 as part of the ‘I Welcome Refugees’ exhibition with Amnesty International Exeter. This new exhibition will present photos from the last six months and focus on themes of front lines, volunteer efforts, stories of people and their land.

Additionally, new artwork created by Ukrainians in Devon will also be displayed alongside documentary video footage by Alexandru Dragan from interviews with displaced Ukrainians in Devon over the last 10 months.

Exhibition organisers said: “We invite to see Ukraine now with your own eyes and stand in solidarity with the defenders of our shared democratic ideals, as well as to better understand the experiences of our more than 1,600 new residents in Devon from Ukraine.”

“One reason why Ukraine is holding on”, as Kostiantyn said, “is because we haven’t been forgotten. Our Western partners haven’t forgotten us, and we haven’t let ourselves forget either.”

People are invited to attend the vigil and then reconvene at Maketank for the exhibition’s opening and a welcoming space for conversation about the war at 7pm.

The exhibition will then continue to run until Saturday 4 March, Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

Visit Maketank on the website at or @maketankexeter on social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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