Underground

Shortlist 2016

Valery Melnikov

Valery Melnikov is an award-winning photojournalist from Russia. His work experience includes coverage of the Ukrainian conflict of 2014 to present; an uprising of Mali Republic in 2013; Syrian Civil war coverage in 2012-2015; Lebanese war in 2006; Infamous conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia in 2008. Now he is a staff photographer at Sputnik Agency. Valery has dedicated his life to journalism, and he continues to take pride in any project he is working on. With a great sense of urgency, Valery brings people together through incredible footage from the dangerous parts of the world, so people can see and become part of it.

The Problem
2016

Underground

Ongoing conflict in Ukraine between separatists and the Ukrainian government army led the country to the full-scale hostilities. There always at least two armed fighting sides in any war. For me as a human the most important side in this conflict was the third one  ordinary civil people. Disaster came into their lives unexpectedly. These people appeared the participants of the military confrontation against their will. They experienced the most terrible things: the death of their friends and relatives, destroyed houses and ruined lives of thousands of people. The locals had to survive without any water and electricity under the daily shelling. And each new day could become their last day. This series of photos was taken in Donbass. It depicts the last remaining residents of bombed out villages in the combat zone. I met these people in the village Veseloe near Donetsk airport in September of 2015. During attacks, people hide in the basements of destroyed houses. Mainly, these are older men and women that have been left on their own. Some have decided to stay and fight to the end; others simply have nowhere to go. Many of their relatives have either left or died. As Sergei, a resident of the village of Veseloe, told me: I never understood what peace was before, or how important it is. You can die at any moment here, but Im not going anywhere. All of them have their own unspoken truths.