A lone Ukrainian park bench has become the unlikely star
of a decade-long drama, much more by chance than by design,
thanks to a photographer’s unplanned project to document
the lives of those who use it.
Yevgeniy Kotenko never meant On the Bench
to be a series or body of work. He simply began to
take pictures of people on and around a bench outside his
parents’ window, capturing everyday scenes — people picnicking,
children playing and old men sitting. He also photographed more
fraught encounters — lovers quarreling, drunks passing
out and emergency service workers tending to an injured man.
“I wasn’t thinking of making a series or a project,”
Colossal. “I didn’t select any particular time frame or set
of situations to capture. Not until 2012 did my friends tell me
that I should put together an exhibition of these photos.
“I never invested the photos with any particular intention or
idea of what I wanted my audience to see,” Kotenko says. “They
will see what they want to see. These photographs are more like
a documentary.” And they document everything under the sun (and
moon), showing what Kiev life is like from day to day
and season to season.
In a way, the project recounts works of found or
everyday-object art, or series like People of New York, where
normal passersby become parts of a grander narrative about city
life. Kotenko has since moved out of the neighborhood, but says
that his experiences looking at the window and documenting life
shaped his perspective growing up, showing him examples of who
he might want to become, or not become.