If you had to guess where this photo was taken, Athens or Split might come to mind. It was the deceptively Mediterranean view that made Polina Karpova stop and take out her camera one glorious summer day in Kyiv.
Until she moved to Ukraine’s capital in the spring of 2019, the photographer and stylist from Kharkiv took her inspiration from the laconic, everyday poetry of her hometown. Now, she spends much of her time wandering around her adopted city as well as documenting her peers amongst Kyiv’s young creatives.
Karpova came across this hillside view while exploring Kyiv’s Tatarka neighbourhood. “The descent down to Podil [a neighbouring district] caught my eye — it was completely empty and surrounded by cottages,” she recalls.
Ukraine’s capital is home to an array of architectural styles, from Art Nouveau mansions to neo-Renaissance buildings, gilded onion domes, and concrete apartments blocks — these are the shapes and structures we have come to expect. Named after Ukraine’s Tatar Muslim community, who have historically resided there, Tatarka is home to the first mosque in Kyiv. It was a wholly different building that stood out for the photographer: “One cottage in particular resembled a ship with a deck like the Titanic, only hidden behind some greenery and a fence decorated elaborately with sea motifs.” This kind of white-washed architecture wouldn’t seem out of place on an island in Greece, but is a rarity in Ukraine.
Karpova is one the artists pioneering the so-called New Sincerity movement in Ukraine. New Sincerity has been around since the 1980s, emerging out of a desire to present experiences and places with utmost authenticity. A self-described flaneur, in her photographs Karpova shows us the real Kyiv — its warmth and vibrancy — even if from one perspective it does look like Beverly Hills.