In February 2022, the editorial staff at C.P. Publishing in Kyiv was hard at work on THE BEAUTY OF UKRAINE (TENEUES, $70), a book of landscape photography by the Odesa-born Yevhen Samuchenko, when Russian forces invaded the Ukrainian capital and forced them to flee.
Although the book survived, much of the breathtaking natural world it captures has not. “Many places featured in this book have been severely damaged during the war since its outbreak,” Lucia Bondar, C.P.’s publisher, writes in her foreword. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian lives lost, she adds, “nature has also suffered from this brutal and senseless war.”
From the pink salt lakes in the Kherson region — their vibrant color resulting from the beta-carotene produced when the sun hits the algae beneath the water’s surface — to the white rocks in the Mykolaiv region, from the Odesa region’s pointillist red poppy fields to the Chernivtsi region’s imposing stone castles, Samuchenko’s images reveal a startling breadth of visual registers. Capturing mostly unpopulated scenes, his camera somehow imparts a fuller understanding of a nation’s humanity.
When his native city came under missile attacks, Samuchenko donated the drone he used to take many of these aerial photographs to the Ukrainian military. Such beauty, like life itself, is always fleeting, but it “now seems more fragile than ever.”
Lauren Christensen is an editor at the Book Review.