‘Be anyone! Be yourself!’: an Instagram project celebrating Ukraine’s diversity

'Be anyone! Be yourself!’: an Instagram project celebrating Ukraine’s diversity

30 March 2020
Image: Kseniia Kargina. Courtesy of Kurazh

In the Instagram photo project “Be anyone! Be yourself!” by Kyiv-based creative collective, Kurazh, people of different ages, and with diverse experiences, bodies, and preferences, come together to promote social cohesion.

Ukrainian photographers Kseniia Kargina, Serhii Sarahanov, Roman Pashkivskii, and Daria Shramko tell 46 stories in four distinct photo series through collage, portraits taken on trampolines, classic headshot series, and naked portraits.

“The message across all stories is the same: you can be anything and anyone you want, as long as you stay yourself,” Kurazh told The Calvert Journal. “Be brave. Be shy. Be gay. Be straight. Be religious. Be atheist. Be any!”

The short interviews are also searingly honest, with each photo outlining the challenges the subjects have dealt with, from racial abuse to social exclusion. One particularly moving story is told by Yana Panfilova: born HIV positive, she recalls how she lived in an orphanage throughout her mother’s drug addiction, and then, once her mother had gone clean, was forced to “come out” about her HIV status at school.

Other interviews, however, burst with self-confidence. Lina, a young woman with only three fingers on each hand, and one leg, defiantly says: “I’m proud to be who I am. Show me other people with three fingers.”

A lesbian couple, Nina and Olena, sweetly boast that “everybody loves and adores” them, from friends and customers to their parents and grandmother.

Although the project attracted many expected hate comments, Kurazh says that for them, opening the dialogue was important, and that ultimately, “Be any!” offered “an opportunity to speak up and support each other.”

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