Ukrainian freelance photojournalist, Alexey Furman, who is currently pursuing his Master’s degree at Missouri School of Journalism on a Fulbright scholarship, has won the Grand Prize Winner of this year’s IAFOR Documentary Photography Award for his project Life After Injury.
Beating over 150 entries from more than 50 countries, all based on the theme of ‘justice’, Furman’s project focuses on the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation of young Ukrainian soldiers wounded during the ongoing conflict with Russia-backed rebels and the Russian army in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine – a conflict which since May 2014 has taken over 9,000 lives, and injured more than 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
“I want to concentrate on their adaptation to peaceful life when they come home, a story that gets overlooked in media outlets and existing photography projects,” Furman says. “With the limitations their physical trauma imposes on them, they have to face an important challenge.
“They have to resocialise, as now they are different people with painful memories impossible to forget. With no help from the government and less financial support from patrons, they have to overcome new difficulties and seek possibilities themselves or with the support of their relatives and friends.
“The Ukrainian government often neglects the contribution of these men. There are cases when war veterans’ documents read that they were wounded during military training. To get regular compensation they have to go through a special medical commission that proves that they were injured during battle.
“No rehabilitation facilities that could potentially help Ukrainian soldiers deal with both physical and psychological trauma are built. Ukrainian war veterans have to reach out to special programs that send them abroad for either physical or psychosocial rehabilitation.
“With this project I would like to raise awareness on a growing number of war veterans in Ukraine. Despite the Minsk agreements that state a ceasefire, dozens of Ukrainian soldiers get injured every week.
“My goal is to create a website where their stories are featured, which will also act as a fundraising platform for them. Each story would be presented as a series of visuals and a text interview conducted in person.”
Alexey will now receive £1,000 cash prize from The International Academic Forum (IAFOR), acceptance into the Metro Imaging Mentorship Programme and nomination for World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass.
See more of Alexey Furman’s work here