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Sebastian Wells, Solomiya
At work with

Sebastian Wells, Solomiya

The pages of new magazine Solomiya show a different side to Ukraine than the one we see in the daily news reports. We meet the young people who have grown up in an independent country, and see the creative work they’ve created in response to the war.

The magazine is a remarkable achievement, its loosebound structure giving it an instant, portfolio feel. It was created by two photographers: Berlin-based Sebastian Wells and Vsevolod Kazarin in Kyiv. Here, Sebastian discusses the publication as he shares his working week and inspirations.


What are you up to this morning?
My bell rang very early in the night, at 3 am. I had a flight to London and had to rush to the crowded airport to get to the airplane. In the evening, I’ll be covering a football match at Wembley, Germany vs. England, for a stunning German magazine called 11Freunde.

It’s been a long time that I worked on some football stories and it feels like diving into my old life. I started photography at the age of 15 when I gave up my running career. In the first years, I started a little sports photography business. I never saw a football match as a spectator, but as a photographer, I can bear it from time to time and somehow, I like that work as long as I have the freedom to not shoot the ‘actual’.

Describe your desk and your work space.
My desk is located underneath my bed. I work in a small one-room partment in the northeast of Berlin, the city where I grew up.

When I look up from the computer, I see a photograph of mine from Sicily where I worked on a long-term photography project until 2020. Behind me, some trams are passing every couple of minutes. Yesterday, I turned on a record my boyfriend gave me: Robert Schumann’s ‘Phantasiestücke op. 88’ resounds from the speaker. Followed by Oscar Peterson, ‘Something Warm’. Then, Spotify might take over, eventually with Yetundey’s ‘Berlin’. In the seconds of not knowing what to do, I read the news on Ukraine.


Which magazine do you first remember?
I might be wrong, but the first magazine that comes into my mind is Geolino, the children’s mag from Geo, a Gruner+Jahr publication in the tradition of National Geographic.

When I was a child, I took weather records for a few years and wanted to become a meteorologist. That never happened, but I was a subscriber from the very first day when the Wetter Magazin was published for a few issues before going bankrupt.


Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
When I saw ThisIsBadLand for the first time, it was a great inspiration for me. Also, I’m a fan of WeAreEurope.


Cover of FOAM magazine: close-up of dark blue woman’s pants with yellow EU stars


And the undoubtedly best photography magazine is FOAM, of course.


Magazine cover: red iamge of photocopied human hand

Describe Solomiya in three words
I think two is enough: FCK PTN.

What inspired you to produce a print magazine in response to the war?
I was very frustrated (although not in immediate danger as the people in Ukraine) after the Russians started the invasion in February and it took me some time to find ways to deal with it as a photographer.

It felt that I wouldn’t find any answers in Belgium, where I lived at the time. I decided to travel to Kyiv without any specific plans or projects. Everything began after Vsevolod Kazarin, a Ukrainian photographer, and I started to collaborate. We took portraits of young Ukrainian creatives in Kyiv, reported on two Bucha survivors and advertised a number of Kyiv based volunteer organizations.

During the work, we got to know more and more artists who, in the end, contributed their works to the first Solomiya magazine. But the magazine was more a solution to publish than the actual idea.


Describe the process for its production.
While working on our portraits mainly, we met Sonya Marian, a young talented graphic designer who contributed a powerful illustration to the magazine (above).

Vsevolod then stumbled upon an instagram post of Andrii Ushytskyi, who’s texts moved us a lot. He joined our team as well, is responsible for a number of writings and our Instagram and proposed to interview Christina Erturk on her visual interpretation of the Ukrainian alphabet.


A amn stands beside a column of carboard boxes carrying copie sof Solomiya magazineVsevolod receiving copies of the magazine in Kyiv


Through our institutional partner, the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, we teamed up with Sasha Kurmaz and Mykola Ridnyi. And, tremendously important, my befriended graphic designers Anne-Lene Proff and Peter Bünnagel from Kollektiv Scrollan immediately agreed to do the layout.

The rest was a furious self-publishing insanity with logistical challenges (transporting the mags from Berlin to Kyiv with Flixbus) and daily routines (my local post office knows me very well now).

Two collages in magazine

Highlight one story that sums up the magazine
I am still very impressed by Sasha’s works he did right after the full-scale war started. In a somewhat provisional residency called ‘The Working Room’ in Ivano-Frankyivsk, he produced a series of collages out of cardboard and recent images from the war he found in the internet (above). Both the productivity as well as the quality of the work are outstanding.


Spread from magazine: large black headline on left page, portrait of young woman in street on right page

And then, shamelessly self-promoting, I do think that Vsevolod’s and my portraits are some sort of a core work in the magazine (above). To me, they are in limbo between extreme fragility and heroic strength.

What are your plans for future issues?
Besides looking for funding, the topic remains obvious: The war. There is so much to tell, discuss, showcase. Further, the proximity between Kyiv and Berlin will be important as well.

What one piece of advice would you offer somebody wanting to launch their own publication?
Talk to people in real life. The physical experience of a printed magazine goes way beyond the actual content and is key.

What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
The small things. A good picture, a warm hug, an enlightening conversation. Also, I’m proud to see the magazine being almost sold out already.

But besides that, the news from Ukraine offers many reasons to be pessimistic.


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