As Russia amassed troops on the Ukrainian border ahead of its full-scale assault on the country in February, the Ukraine-based British photographer Mark Neville began sending out around 750 free copies of his latest publication Stop Tanks with Books. The book of photographs taken in Ukraine from 2016 to 2021 was sent to “members of the international community—be they politicians, celebrities, ambassadors, negotiators, or the media—who have it in their power to help Ukraine”.
The publication opens with an explanation of “why the world should care about this war”—referring to the earlier invasion of the Donbas region and Crimea—and a five point call to action, which includes beginning the process for Ukraine’s Nato membership, sanctions against Russia, military assistance, and the debunking of false narratives about Ukraine.
Ukraine: the response of the art community and the risks of photojournalism
In the introduction Neville lays out the importance of help for people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), having himself suffered from it after being embedded with British troops in Afghanistan a decade ago. The photographer recently told The Art Newspaper’s podcast that even if the war was to end now “a whole nation is going to be traumatised”.
The publication also includes five short stories about the conflict in the east of the country, written by the Ukrainian novelist Lyuba Yakimchuk. One of the tales, titled ‘Announcement’, is written in the style of a small ad, beginning humorously with “For sale: Useless dog. Devours food like a crocodile” but continuing with the urgency of displacement caused by war: “Please be quick, we are leaving in two weeks”.
Neville has been photographing different regions of Ukraine since his first visit in 2015 and he moved permantely to the country in 2020. The images in the publication range from holidaymakers in Odesa and a rave in Kyiv Forest, to frontline troops and concrete tank traps in Mariupol. Below is a selection of images from the book.
Images from Stop Tanks with Books
• Stop Tanks With Books, Mark Neville, Nazraeli Press, 180pp, $60 (HB)