Ukraine: The Battle of Kiev by Eric Bouvet
Ukraine, written by Michel Puech
On February 20th, 2014, Ukraine suffered the bloodiest day since unrest began in Kiev. Authorities reported that 77 people had been killed, while the local media put the number near 100. Photojournalist Eric Bouvet came under fire and made a series of remarkable photos.
“Obviously, if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t. That day will never leave me.” In his vast Parisian studio, where he holds photo shoots and workshops between assignments, Bouvet is still scarred from his second and final trip to the Ukraine.
“I’ve been organizing internships for the past twelve years, so I’ve met over 500 interns. Some of them ask me to take them with with me on assignment. I always refuse. But when things started happening in Maidan, I took a particularly talented one along. I brought my 4x5 with me… It was great.”
“A week later, I realized things were going to heat up. I was right. The next day, the police reclaimed a portion of the square… I called Paris Match. They wanted to wait a day or two, but I told them: I’m leaving. They gave me a guarantee. That almost never happens.”
“I went to Maidan on Wednesday afternoon. I saw what was happening and said to myself, these Ukrainians aren’t messing around.”
“I woke up Thursday morning in bad shape. I’d been reading the news all night long… I got to the barricade at 8:15. That’s when it started to get real violent. So I suit up with the helmet, jacket and all that…”
“At 8:55, the protesters made a move to reclaim the square. They charged the police and the police retreated… I was all alone. I let two or three hundred protesters pass by. I did not want to be in the front in case the police started shooting.”
“Then I started to move forward. I heard one, two, three shots… I saw the first the wounded protester, then the first casualty, then more wounded… Shots were being fired but only now and then. I see the dead and wounded being brought back. Then I moved forward. I see it’s going to be difficult to advance. The cops are behind a barricade, really hunkered down.”
“I walked between some trees and there’s Jérôme Sessini from Magnum. I hadn’t seen him yet. He started yelling at me. Then a man in front of me dropped to the ground. I hit the deck. I was trapped.”
“There were two of us, me and Jérôme. We’re in a trap. Bullets are flying. In the next half hour, all around us, a dozen men were hit. We stayed where we were and played dead. We wait it out. But the bullets are raining down.”
Jérôme Sessini caught the scene on video. Bouvet is clearly heard saying that a bullet passed right by his head.
Bouvet’s photographs were published in two double-page spreads in Paris Match and elsewhere.
“I don’t know if the public realizes this,” says Bouvet, “but when we go out on assignments like this, it’s out of our own pockets.”
To See :
Video by Jérome Sessini :
To Read :
« Kiev, les révoltés de Maïdan, la chronique d’Eric Bouvet »
Réponses Photo n°265 - April 2014.
To listen :
Interview of Eric Bouvet by Jean-Louis Vinet (Radio Grands Reporters):