NYC photographer shines a light on Ukraine’s plight through art

Photographer Kat Irlin is hoping to use her skill set as a visual artist to create a ripple effect of support throughout New York City. 

With over one million followers on Instagram and her work appearing in publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair, Irlin invited her fans to join her outside the Flatiron building on March 8 to show their support for Ukraine through a series of portraits. 

Irlin took the photographs free of charge of New Yorkers outside the Flatiron building dressed in Ukrainian colors and encouraged her subjects to post the images in hopes of flooding social media with support for the embattled Eastern European country.

Using the Flatiron building as a backdrop, Irlin encouraged her subjects to wear the Ukrainian colors. Photo by Dean Moses 
Kat Irlin photographs her subject. Photo by Dean Moses

“I mean, I just think that you know, the more awareness everybody raises, the better. Hopefully every little bit helps and people post and share and someone will see and it will change somebody’s mind and with some sort of the trickle effect hopefully it will get to Putin somehow,” Irlin told amNewYork Metro.

As a Russian native, the crisis hits close to home for Irlin and inspired her to use her platform to show solidarity. With friends still hunkering down within the war-torn Ukraine, she says this is a very personal project for her.

“I’m from Russia originally and we came here a long time ago as Jewish refugees. So, it’s sort of a thing close to the heart, and so whatever I can do. I have people in Ukraine and a lot of friends and families there,” Irlin explained.

Like many other New Yorkers who have been engaging in protests and rallies since the conflict began, Irlin feels helpless watching the devastation from afar, so she says she is just trying to do what she can.

Using the Flatiron building as a backdrop, Irlin encouraged her subjects to wear the Ukrainian colors. Photo by Dean Moses
Model Jeheli Odidi. Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s just crazy. It’s just so sad to see people I know having to hide in bunkers and basements and leave their whole lives,” Irlin said.

One of her subjects, model Jeheli Odidi, looked to participate and have her portrait taken since she firmly believes art can have a big impact during wartime. 

“I think art plays an important role in revolutions. If you look at the 70s, like, they’re using art to spread joy, peace, and unity.  I think that art is meant to speak on what’s happening right now and point out hypocrisy,” Odidi said.

Irlin photographed portraits from 12 pm to 3 pm.