Firearms of the revolution: The Molotov cocktails of Kyiv

Photographer Donald Weber lived in Kyiv—and used his camera as his own means of protest

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Months after the Euro-Maidan protests erupted in Kyiv in 2013, Donald Weber grabbed his camera and dove into the crowds. But, unlike many others who did the same, the Toronto-born photographer wasn’t on assignment. “I was in Kyiv not just because I wanted to be,” says Weber, who had previously lived and worked in the Ukrainian city for several years, “but because it was personal.”

Because he didn’t have an editor waiting for front-page photos, Weber was free to document what he liked instead of chasing the sorts of images that dominated worldwide news coverage. In his mind, those pictures—“protesters wielding weapons, artfully composed against a flaming backdrop with arm half-cocked and ready to throw”—were overdramatic and out of sync with what he was witnessing. “Kyiv was not in flames 24/7.”

From 2014: Guarding the Maidan

So, to counter the theatrics of those images, he set out to capture, plainly and coldly, the ubiquitous firearm of the revolution: Molotov cocktails. “There were thousands of bottles everywhere,” Weber says. “Residents of Kyiv would bring boxes and carloads of them for the protesters.” He collected a small selection, set up a makeshift studio in the streets—a foam board against a graffiti-covered wall—and finished the shoot in a few hours. “This is just a bottle, a piece of cloth and fluid,” he says. “It’s a banal object.” But a powerful one: For the project, the Sony World Photography Awards named Weber its 2015 still life photographer of the year.