A deep sense of duty and purpose inspired New York-based portrait photographer Katrine Moite to tackle an emotional documentary project, “I Don’t Have My Home Anymore ... .” She sought out, interviewed, and photographed 15 Ukrainian women who endured horrendous circumstances in Ukraine because of the Russia-Ukraine War.
“I’m Ukrainian, and like many Ukrainians, I believe in helping our own when times are tough,” Moite says. “When the Russian invasion hit on Feb. 24, 2022, it was a heartbreaking moment for our country. I knew I had to do something.”
The women now live in 12 cities and eight states throughout the United States, says Moite, who coordinated travel to meet with each of them individually and make their portraits. She also made video recordings of the women recounting their stories, which she shared with a Ukrainian journalist who transcribed their words, which were then translated into English. The video is being developed into a documentary film. It was an all-female team working on all-female stories, notes Moite.
Moite made black-and-white portraits of the women, including close-ups on a white backdrop meant to highlight the emotion in their eyes, as well as photos of them in their new environments in the United States. She also made photos of meaningful items they brought from home. These photos, as well as photos of their war-torn homes in Ukraine, are presented on the project website (ukraine-us-documentary.com) along with each woman’s harrowing account.
From a technical standpoint, Moite’s biggest challenge was light—she traveled during the summer and often had to seek out shade during bright midday sun. But her goal was not artistic perfection; rather, it was authenticity, she notes. “Consequently, I accepted that some shadows would be present in certain photos, understanding that they add to the rawness and authenticity of the narrative.”
From an emotional standpoint, the challenges were profound, she says. She found that reliving the Russian invasion with her subjects was as difficult as it was necessary. “The driving force behind overcoming these emotional hurdles was the unwavering belief in the significance of the project, knowing that we were doing the right thing sharing these stories with the world.”
Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.