Byron Smith (US) "Testament '22" - Helphoto 2023



United States

Testament ’22 
In May 2022, Smith encountered Natalya, a mother grappling with the loss of her son Alexander, who was laid to rest in a cemetery in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv. The preceding weeks had witnessed the exhumation of hundreds of bodies in the surrounding area of Bucha, victims of the violence that erupted when Russian troops entered the city.

Alexander, a courageous 40-year-old, lost his life while trying to save his mother as she sought shelter in an underground refuge. Tragically, when his body was found by volunteers, it showed signs of torture and a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Natalya’s story is just one of the many heartbreaking accounts Smith heard from individuals who suffered during this senseless tragedy.

This project, titled as a nod to Taras Shevchenko’s poem Testament (1845, Zapovit), serves as a testament to the bravery and resilience of the civilian population in the face of overwhelming violence. Through documenting the human toll of this tragedy, Smith hopes to honor the memory of those who lost their lives and pay tribute to the courage of those who continue to endure. As Shevchenko wrote, “When I die, then make my grave / High on an ancient mound, / In my own beloved Ukraine.”. His words capture the strength and determination of a people who refuse to be defeated in the face of adversity.

Byron Smith is an American freelance photographer currently based in Athens, Greece. Before moving to Athens in the summer of 2019, he worked as a stringer in New York City starting in 2011. His work has been published in numerous reputable publications such as The New York Times, Getty Images, CNN, Le Monde, Libération, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and The Wall Street Journal. A selection of his work in Ukraine from 2022 was exhibited in the U.S. Capitol and Oxford University in 2023, garnering significant recognition for its depiction of the ongoing conflict. 

Byron Smith (US) "Testament '22" - Helphoto 2023
Byron Smith (US) "Testament '22" - Helphoto 2023