5 Frames of a Ukraine Invasion Protest – By Thorsten Wulff

Berlin, Saturday, February 26. Day three of the russian invasion of Ukraine. The russian embassy, located on the posh boulevard Unter den Linden, is a stalinistic monument of bad taste. A group of protesters huddle in the middle of the street, blue-yellow flags waving around their shoulders. They shout their frustration and anger against blind windows. No one looks back from the embassy, but you can imagine grey faced russian guards staring in their cathode ray CCTV screens.

The first person I encounter is a woman in peril, clutching her phone. On the screen you see two women hiding in their basement in Kyiv. War in 2022 is instant.

My F3 is loaded with HP5, the Berlin sky’s the dark grey of springtime. Metering the mud beneath I set the shutter to a 1/125 and the 35mm Nikkor toƒ 5.6. Lowering my mask I approach the crying woman, asking the permission to take her picture with my eyes.

Making my way into the center of the group of Ukrainians I realise there are no news photographers around. Just a bunch of analog shooters. One M6, two Rolleiflexes. We pause to talk shop, lenses, film speeds. A sudden commotion, the group splits to let a gentleman in a suit pass. He stops in front of me, stating: “I am Gitanas Nausėda, the president of Lithuania. I just come straight from meeting Olaf Scholz  (the german chancellor) and just talked to Zelenskyi on the phone.” He then gives an impromptu speech and talks about the fear of the baltics to be the next victim of russia, and that Ukraine is defending the freedom of us all right now. I am reminded of a trip to Lithuania 1990, which was just getting rid of soviet occupation. Standing on the burning rubble of the KGB-Headquarters in Klaipeda I wondered if the cold war was really over. We know now that for Putin, it never ended.

This woman had family members hiding in a Kyiv basement on the phone to let them participate in the roaring protests against the russian embassy.
These young Ukrainian women study in germany. Their loved ones face the onslaught of Putin’s army.
Amazingly the event was covered exclusively by analog photographers.
You need to get close with a 35mm.

Gitanas Nausėda, the president of Lithuania stopped by and had some harsh words for the russian embassy behind him.

All images Nikon F3 with 35mm f2. Ilford HP5 @ASA400, developed in HC110, 5 Minutes @20 Degrees Celsius. Prints Ilford MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE V.

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12 thoughts on “5 Frames of a Ukraine Invasion Protest – By Thorsten Wulff”

  1. Excellent pictures and article. This brings the conflict into the real, as opposed to the “news” world. I’m pleased you love your F3, I used one in the 1980’90’s but fell out of love when I bought an F4. I bought a mint used F3 last year and, once again, love it to bits!

    1. Thank you John. That all goes back to me shooting D-Day with an M6 https://bit.ly/3u5uVyO and getting my hands wet again. The next logical step was to rediscover the F3 (I had one boxed with MD4, 105 and 180mm) , got myself another one from Japan, plus the 35/2. Before I captured the story above I worked for two weeks with a Z9. Incredible tool that eradicates out-of-focus images, 45MP galore etc. But the F3, which I used from 1982 to 2001 (before I got the CoolPix 995) is just part of my body. Back then I worked with Kodak T-Max 400, these days it is HP5, because I use it in 4×5 inch too and don’t want to mix emulsions, developer times and all that.

  2. Thorsten Jaspert

    With the Ilford HP5 looks the scenery demonstration of the 50th or 60th. Only modern devices like smartphones tell it, that these photographs are new. The photo paper underlines this massage.

    1. You are raising a very good point here, Thorsten. A couple of days ago I printed images of Heinz Rühmann and Willy Brandt, and I wondered about this effect too.

    1. Thank you Don. Now that we are at day 22 of this war, and the russians bomb children in the theater of Mariupol, I feel the strong need to do more.

  3. Beauty in the world with unhinged savagery. The civilized along with the barbarian in their midst.

    Beautiful magical objects like Nikon F3 product of astounding meticulous culture

    employed with Ilford’s classical refinements. And the artist who appreciates and loves what he uses understands what he sees.


    1. Carl, thank you for this words. The situation asked for something direct, like light hitting silver on a piece of film. Working digital comes with the luxury of easy editing an endless stream of possible images. In this case a promise had to be kept by shooting a roll of 36 pictures, the promise to tell the truth about what is happening here, against the russian machine of deception and propaganda. Admittedly my version of the truth, tainted by emotion. I always wondered how it was to live under a blanket of lies, like Goebbels created in germany from 1933 to 1945. Or the soviet-flavored one east germans endured 45 years longer till 1990. And the amazing amount of courage it takes to tell the truth facing real danger, like Marina Ovsyannikova did on russian TV. So yes, an F3 with HP5 are excellent truth-telling tools, I will use them again.

    1. Dear Markus, getting close to somebody is always a kind of dance. She allowed me to do this, which I am really grateful for. Just around the corner from where I live in Berlin people from Ukraine are housed in a compound that used to be home for syrians fleeing that other russian war just two years ago. I will go there and take a large format portrait if possible. Will be posted in this place soon.

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