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Ivan Paniotov

Ivan Paniotov is a documentary and conceptual photographer, born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and currently living and working in Berlin, Germany. In his work, Ivan explores themes of collective memory and trauma. Due to the military conflict in his hometown, Ivan immigrated to Germany in 2016, which became the main catalyst for exploring his gender, cultural, and political identity. Since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Ivan’s work has focused on childhood during times of war.

Filling the Holes

by Ivan Paniotov

“Filling the Holes” is a collaborative project between photographer Ivan Paniotov and Ukrainian children, aimed at giving children a new perspective and hope.

According to UNICEF, at the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 4.3 million Ukrainian children were displaced. This is more than half of the country’s estimated 7.5 million child population. As the war entered its third year, 630,000 children returned home to face extreme conditions of danger, destruction, and poverty.

The black and white photographs depict the still-visible urban consequences of the Bosnian War in Sarajevo. Ukrainian children worked with these printed photographs during supervised art-therapeutic sessions. They were given complete freedom to change, add, or remove elements from the images as they wished. Most of the children did not see the images as scary or disturbing and focused on the opportunities they presented for their art. While some children chose to draw a better future for the places depicted, others were completely devoted to their fantasies and associations.

Wars leave many scars and holes. Through this project, Ukrainian children fill these holes with their art, vision, dreams, and strengths.