Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1994, there was a urgency for all Ukrainians to get new passports. Photographer Alexander Chekmenev, then 25 years old and working at a local photo studio, got a job to take passport photos of the elderly citizens who couldn’t afford to have their pictures taken themselves.

For a year Chekmenev visited the homes of the elderly in Luhansk, a town in southeast Ukraine. He sat them against a white backdrop held up social workers and snapped standard black-and-white passport portraits as required. But he also carried another camera loaded with C-41 colour film, and the resulting behind-the-scenes portraits, which he titled Passport, reveal the scars the older generation were left with after living through the communist era.

Photographing the elderly, disabled and mentally-ill citizens for a passport they would most probably never use made a strong impression on Chekmenev; many of them didn’t understand what was happening. “It was really difficult to take these pictures because some of the people were just breaking down and begging us to leave them alone,” he recounts. “They asked why we were making them suffer, claiming that there was not much time left for them and soon they would be dead.”

Passport is shortlisted for the 2017 Author Book Award in Arles. The book, published by Dewi Lewis, is available here.

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Images © Alexander Chekmenev