Hidropark, the latest project from award-winning German photographer Freya Najade, is a recreational area in Kiev, Ukraine located on two islands in the Dnieper River. She read about the place in a guidebook and after visiting it for the first time returned the following two summers. “I was drawn to the people and activities—the fun fair, the table tennis where the elderly met and socialized, the beach life, the gym where people of all classes and ages trained.”
Her photos, most of them taken with a Contax 645, capture all of this and more with a surreal clarity. A couple embraces in a sea of beachgoers on a sprawling stretch of sand. A line of shirtless old men walk into the river. Two women in Hawaiian garb pose in front of an unkempt plot of grass. A man, his face contorted in exertion, works out at an outdoor gym. “In my images I wanted to capture summertime on these islands and a slice of Ukrainian culture amidst the current political struggle and economic insecurity,” says the photographer.
In her subjects, Najade captures moments of serenity and calm, each one surrounded by the kind of vibes that exist only during summer days. Yet the youthful joy and suntanned smiles of the beach-goers contrast with the rusty pillars and peeling facades of the Soviet-era buildings behind them. It reminds us simultaneously of the sweetness of summer and the inevitable decay of the old.
All images © Freya Najade