Yelena Yemchuk grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine, before her family moved to the US in 1981 when she was 11 years old. As a child, she was fascinated by the almost mythological idea of Odesa as a ‘free’ place under the Soviet regime. To her, it seemed like a city that was full of contradictions: “Acceptance but also danger. A place of jokes and characters, populated by outlaws and intellectuals,” she says.
Yemchuk first visited Odesa in 2003, then returned in 2015 to photograph its buildings, landscapes and people over a period of four years. It’s those images that are gathered in this book, Odesa, with the series taking on a new poignancy following the devastating events in Ukraine this year.