A juxtaposition of life in Lviv Oblast Ukraine

Castlemaine Art Museum’s (CAM) latest ‘Summer Terrace Projection’ installation features a photographic series by talented local photographer Piper Albrecht from the artist’s time in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, in May and August of 2022.
The 21 year old said the images tell a story about the juxtaposition of life going on in a city amidst constant reminders of war.
“My photos are not about war-torn Ukraine, but a snippet of life in the city furthest from the front which is, nonetheless, deeply affected by the war,” Piper said.
The artist discovered a love of photography whilst studying locally at Castlemaine Steiner School and later the Castlemaine Secondary College Steiner Stream, before pursuing a career in elite mountain bike racing which has seen him compete on the international stage at World Cup events across Europe. Despite his passion for the sport he always had his trusty camera in hand capturing mountain bike action, landscapes, wildlife and more on his travels.
Piper said that he found himself at a crossroads in 2021.
“In August of that year, as Kabul was falling to the Taliban, I, alongside the rest of the world, watched helplessly at the scenes of despair being played out across our many screens. Seeing that triggered something in me to try to do some good in the world, and among other reasons helped me make the decision to retire from bike racing,” he said.
“Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 reignited a war ongoing since 2014. Within months of making that initial decision to quit racing, I had an opportunity to put my photography skills to use for some good. Out of that came my first collection of documentary images, from my time in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine.”
Piper said that he found passage into Lviv Oblast after a chance meeting with a clown.
“He was travelling across the border with a Spanish foundation, which has been supporting the people of Ukraine for 30 years, to do a circus performance for children which were among 170 refugees living there.
“I went along to photograph his performance and stayed with the foundation and in my two trips to the Ukraine have made many friends and connections, including a group of mountain bike riders which I enjoyed rides with,” he said.
Piper said he chose to capture his images with an analogue camera as those that have done before, shooting on 35mm Kodak Portra 160 and 400 film, these images are recent, yet still reminiscent of conflicts decades ago. Despite the advances in technology and the terrible lessons learned from our past, history continues to repeat itself.
“This series grapples with the conflicts and social issues we have brought with us into the future. Wherever you look in Lviv Oblast there are street performers, bustling cafes, Ukrainian flags, posters, banners and ribbons, with crowds singing along to songs of the resistance. The mood is lively, but with a worried tension underpinning daily life,” Piper said.
“There is a heightened military presence, bordered windows, protected monuments, sandbags and air raid sirens. In the four weeks I spent in the Ukraine, five missiles landed in Lviv Oblast, less than 80km from the European Union. But life in the city goes on amidst these perils. This series offers insight into Lviv Oblast – a busy city with cosy cafes and streets like any other, alongside vivid reminders of war.”
Piper said many people question why the residents don’t just flee their home.
“They all know someone fighting for their freedom in the war and they feel that if they leave, what is the point, what are their loved ones fighting for?” Piper said.
“People don’t want to leave everything they have ever known behind for a life of uncertainty.
“They told me the conflict highlights what’s important. Spending time with friends and family and making the most of every day,” he said.
So what’s next for Piper?
The artist is currently focused on working as a professional sports photographer in the mountain bike sphere and in his spare time aims to keep using his art to bring focus to social issues across the globe.
“I’m yet to figure out the intricacies of creating powerful images to motivate change, but this is all part of a journey I’m on and I’m not stopping anytime soon!” he said.
Using the medium of light, CAM is bringing contemporary images and ideas to the streets of Castlemaine in this new series of exhibitions and commissions with local and national artists.
You can catch the Lviv Oblast projection nightly from 9pm on the façade of the Castlemaine Art Museum in Lyttleton Street until February 2.
For more on the exhibition and the artist visit castlemaineartmuseum.org.au

An image from the photographic series Lviv Oblast by Piper Albrecht.
Lisa Dennis
Editor of the Castlemaine Mail newspaper and senior journalist on our sister paper the Midland Express. Over the last 24 years Lisa been proudly reporting news in the Mount Alexander and Macedon Ranges communities.