Photographer Mark Neville – His book wanted to prevent the Ukraine war – Culture


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“Stop the Tanks with Books”: With his portraits of eastern Ukraine, Mark Neville wanted to rock the mighty – from Justin Trudeau to Sean Penn. Now the Briton himself is on the run.

The agony of war captured in pictures: The Ukrainians portrayed by Mark Neville in his picture book Stop the Tanks with Books have war written on their faces. The people in the photos come mainly from areas of eastern Ukraine, which have been fighting for years.

They usually look directly into the camera, their eyes giving an idea of ​​the misery they experienced. “When I was planning the book seven years ago, one of my goals was to draw the attention of the West to Ukraine. “Involve them in the struggle to preserve Ukraine’s independence,” Neville said.

Caption:

The three children of the Orthodox church choir look serious and mature in Neville’s camera.

Mark Neville

The war caught him

Mark Neville, who has lived in Ukraine for years, was in his apartment in Kyiv when the first bombs fell. A little later he fled with his wife, who was in poor health, first to Poland and then to France, Marseille. “The nice weather here is good for us. In a sense, we’ve avoided conflict. But of course you can’t escape it anywhere,” says Neville.

In fact, the Briton does not seem to be able to escape from the war: between 2015 and 2018, he accompanied paratroopers in Afghanistan as a war photographer. When he returned to the UK, the experience took hold of him. What followed was post-traumatic stress disorder.

A man with a camera and a tripod in his hand, stands in the filming room and looks at the camera.

Caption:

In the Ukrainians, Neville realized the trauma of the war he had experienced.

Mark Neville

Before starting the “Stop Tanks with Books” project, he initially wanted to give up photography. Even in the current situation, he suffers from this: “Since I became a refugee, I find it very difficult to take pictures of other refugees. This horrific experience overwhelmed me.”

Awaken the mighty world

The book is specifically intended to attract people in positions of power. Neville sent the first edition of 750 books to politicians, MEPs, the rich and famous. They include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American actor Sean Penn.

Nothing happened. Neville barely received any replies, calls, or emails. “It shocks and amazes me so much. I think the book will still do something for people. Books find their way into people’s minds and hearts in a way that is almost beguiling.”

Signs of war passed unnoticed

According to Mark Neville, “Stop Tanks with Books” would have been without the current war. It was too late.

It appeared four days before the Russian invasion on February 24. “What really bothers me is that I, a man with a camera, have been watching the outbreak of war on a large scale coming for seven years. That means many high-ranking politicians in the West saw it coming and did nothing.”

A woman with a hood sits on the bench, smokes a cigarette and looks into the distance.

Caption:

In a total of 80 photos, Neville documents life in eastern Ukraine.

Mark Neville

Neville feels more emotionally attached to Ukraine than to his home country of the United Kingdom. “It’s very personal to me, it’s my home and I have the right to say something and I’ll do it silly.”

Aid convoys to Kyiv

Neville’s relationship with Ukraine knows no bounds. Again and again he drives from Warsaw with aid convoys to Kyiv to deliver aid and be on site. But what people there need most is financial help and a quick end to the war, according to Neville.

Even if the response to his book is small, it’s clear to Neville that photography can make a difference. Culture is indispensable in times of war. “Cultural representations ensure that people feel connected to what happened.”

His photographs are on display at the Albert and Victoria Museum in London. In addition, according to Neville, he will hold a press conference in front of the European Parliament in Brussels.

He remains convinced that his book will make a difference.

book reference


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Mark Neville: “Stop the tanks with books.” Nazraeli Press, 2022.

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