Otherworldly Landscapes

Ukraine-based photographer Yevhen Samuchenko’s work primarily focuses on nature and studies the shifting relationship between humankind and the environment. He says: “The first time you see the pink salt lakes of the Kherson region in Ukraine, it feels as though you are looking at another planet.” Samuchenko conveyed the atmosphere of this location by using a drone. Since this work was created, the area became occupied by Russia, and the unique landscape was badly damaged due to flooding after the dam of the Kakhovka Reservoir was destroyed. We asked Yevhen about his project which is on display at the Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition 2024, for which he is one of 21 shortlisted creatives.


A: What is your inspiration behind At the Pink Planet

YS: The very unusual landscape of the Pink salt lakes in the Kherson region of Ukraine inspired me to create this series. Due to an algae that can be found in the lake, the colour of the water turns pink. During the summer months, it can reach even darker hues as water evaporates from the lake bed. I will never forget when I first visited this scene – I felt as if I was not on Earth but on another planet.

A: Your photographs capture a natural environment with extreme beauty, but the pictures have a serious story behind them. What role does juxtaposition play in your work?

YS: Unfortunately, these zones in Ukraine are now occupied by Russians. My fear is that we might never see many of these landscapes like this again. Explosions from bombs and shells, and the flooding of the territories after the explosion of the Kakhovka Reservoir’s dam led to severe destruction and changes in this unique region. Nature suffers greatly because of the war, as do the people of Ukraine. Therefore, my photographs, besides their artistic value, also have documentary qualities. The native land is one of the main foundations for which Ukrainians are fighting on the battlefield right now. Juxtaposition helps me immerse the viewers in studying both the landscape and the feelings they evoke. I would like audiences to be inspired by the pristine beauty of our planet, and realise how fragile this world is.


A: Could you talk about the process of making the piece?

YS: To document the atmosphere of this landscape, I used a drone that can produce high-quality aerial shots. This also helped me gain a view of the region and decide what panoramas I’d like to include and how I want to represent these views. Then, during a summer month, I returned two times to the lake. I wanted to make sure I take these photographs in the best possible light and weather circumstances.

A: How does photography affect the way we see the world?

YS: In my opinion, photography has the quality to make the viewer notice certain qualities of a scene that otherwise would be overlooked in our fast-paced lives. My task as a photographer is to show the constantly shifting relationship between humans and nature. With my images, I want to show the fragile beauty of our planet and start a dialogue about our relationship with ecosystems.

A: What are you looking forward to most at the Aesthetica Art Prize?

YS: This is such a great opportunity for me; to show my work on a platform like Aesthetica alongside the projects of greatly talented photographers. Of course, winning the Main Prize would make me very happy but being shortlisted and presenting my work at the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition is already an honour.

Samuchenko features in the Aesthetica Art Prize 2024 Exhibition at York Art Gallery from 16 February – 21 April. Plus, meet over 250 longlisted international artists in our new online gallery.

Want to get involved? The next edition of the Prize is open for entries. Submit your work by 31 August. Win £10,000, exhibition and publication. Find out more here.

All images: Yevhen Samuchenko, At the Pink Planet (2019- 2020), From the series At the Pink Planet. C-type print.