The Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) announces the launch of the online Holodomor Photo Directory. Most of the more than 100 authenticated photographs featured in the Directory were taken surreptitiously by foreigners visiting or working in Ukraine in 1932-33 and smuggled out. The Directory also includes a rare collection by a local photographer documenting his family’s experience of the Famine as well as a selection of 1920s photos that sometimes have been misattributed to the Holodomor, along with evidence of their 1920s origins.

The featured photos are high quality, digital copies of original prints wherever possible, accompanied by in-depth descriptions and details on sources. The Directory also contains material written to provide broader context to the photographic content including an essay on censorship and constraints on photography in the USSR at the time as well as biographical essays and exhibits describing each photographer’s experiences related to documenting the Holodomor.

The project began as an initiative of retired academic librarian Lana Babij to identify authentic photos from the Holodomor and to distinguish them from those that have been used to depict the Holodomor but in fact were taken during the 1920s famine in Ukraine. Ms. Babij, together with HREC researchers Anastasia Leshchyshyn and Daria Glazkova, conducted extensive archival research to identify and provide context to the featured images.

The HREC Photo Directory is organized into collections by photographer. Of the photos of Alexander Wienerberger, it makes accessible not only those that have been more widely circulated (from what is known as the Cardinal Innitzer collection) but also several that were previously published anonymously and others found only in the private collection of Wienerberger’s great-granddaughter Samara Pearce. Another collection comprises nine photos by Whiting Williams, a well-known American expert on labor issues who was appalled by what he witnessed in Ukraine in 1933 and was rebuffed by editors in the US when he sought to publish an article about what he had witnessed. Also featured are photos by another American, James Abbe, a noted fashion and celebrity photographer turned photo journalist. In his 1934 memoir I Photograph Russia, Abbe regretted the images of suffering and deprivation that he had not been able to capture (he was arrested three times).

Some of the most moving photographs found in the Directory were taken by Nikolai Bokan, a photographer from Chernihiv oblast who documented his family’s experience of famine in 1932-33, including the death of his son Kostya from starvation. Bokan’s photos, which were preserved in his criminal case file (he was arrested in 1937, charged with anti-Soviet agitation, and died in a labor camp in 1942) offer a haunting, personal perspective.

The Photo Directory is an ongoing project and the result of cooperation between HREC, Lana Babij, and OurDigitalWorld, a non-profit organization that collaborates with libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and community groups to create sustainable digital collections.