TIAA #8: “United with Ukraine”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

“United with Ukraine” / Ukrainian Cultural Festival / Bellevue, Washington, USA / August 27, 2016

What can I say about the photograph above?

A few years ago, I was hired by the City of Bellevue — the city I often dub as “Seattle’s stepsister” to the east — for a major photography assignment that took almost six months to complete. I remember that I had to visit Bellevue City Hall and make a presentation of my work in front of a number of employees who were part of a branding initiative for the city. Out of the several people who had submitted proposals to Bellevue, three individual photographers were selected to complete the assignment. TIA International Photography was one of the chosen three.

Admittedly, in my last article, I expressed my personal disdain in regards to professional networking, particularly my conclusion that it doesn’t work. I still think that’s true in terms of my own efforts and experience. Retrospectively, however, I owe the opportunity I had to work for the City of Bellevue through the recommendation of another client — the City of Seattle. In essence, one partner’s networking helped me to land a contract with a new partner, and I remain grateful about the gesture to this day.


One of the events I had to photograph was Bellevue’s annual Ukrainian Cultural Festival at Crossroads Park in August 2016. I remember many parts of the event, most notably that I don’t think there were more than five attendees who looked liked me. This wasn’t actually an issue, but when you are the only one who looks like a chocolate chip in an ocean of vanilla, like an isle in an ocean, you cannot help but be extremely aware of yourself. Alas, nothing new to me personally or professionally. Given my academic background combined with a genuine interest in travel and multiculturalism, I was happy to be an attendee who was hired to document the event.

During one part of the festival, live performances were taking place on a stage at the park, similar to the platforms constructed for outdoor summer concerts. At the two front corners of the platform, two flags waved prominently — Ukraine’s on the right, and the U.S. on the left. While one fellow was playing his saxophone in front of hundreds of people, I noticed a quartet of young ladies seated on a concrete wall made out of square tiles. Several of the tiles had been painted with the flag of a foreign country.

As the live music played and the girls, who all appeared to be friends, chatted and laughed, I composed an image and the result is this week’s featured image for TIAA.

To be honest, when I first assigned this photo challenge to myself, I had curated an entirely different set of images to select each week. Unfortunately or fortunately, I am also an eternally recovering news junkie. As a result, since the beginning of Black History Month in February in the U.S., coinciding with the Beijing Winter Olympics, I’ve frequently chosen an entirely different photo from what I originally intended. As you can imagine, events in Russia and Ukraine upended everything. This week’s photo had never been an original contender, but now, it would be folly to overlook it and its significance — “Which is what?”, you might query.

Earlier this week, the majority of member states (141) of the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in comparison to countries who voted against condemnation, abstained from condemnation, or were absent in the proceeding.

Tally for United Nations General Assembly’s vote to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine / March 2, 2022

Given this result, I couldn’t help but to recall this week’s selected photograph featuring the flags of different countries on the tiles — the majority of which are against Russia’s invasion. Also, the photo showcases the Ukrainian flag flowing in the wind next to the stage.

In an era in which countries and entities whose official names contain the word “United” seems almost ironic, one cannot deny the swift display of unity and unison we’ve seen in support of Ukraine by the international community.

Originally, I had considered spending time to explain why the United Nations’ vote is very important considering social media ramblings that this vote is meaningless if it doesn’t involve some form of immediate retaliation against Russia — specifically, a military retaliation by the United Nations.

However, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to lecture about the history, significance, and function of the UN in this format. I do encourage people to learn more about the United Nations and, perhaps, understand the prologues and preludes of World War II before dismissing this week’s vote as meaningless.

Meanwhile, I’ll take some small pride in seeing most of the world “United with Ukraine.”

Nine articles down for the TIAA challenge. 43 remain!

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