I was in L’viv, Ukraine in the winter of 2009/2010 and while there took a special trip to the meat market to take some photographs. It was quite a scene far removed from the plastic wrapped supermarket butcher experience commonly found in the United States. This scene in Ukraine had men with axes chopping carcasses, skinned calf heads proudly on display, about 30 women (no men) selling a wide array of sausages including the ever-appetizing blood sausage, and people touching, squeezing and smelling the meats before purchase. Although I’ve been eating vegetarian for the past 4 years and find scenes like this somewhat abhorrent, I did appreciate how the butchery process at the very least isn’t “candy coated” and hidden from view there.
This photograph is of a woman standing in the customer area trying to sell a chicken. She stood there on a cold winter day with the chicken unwrapped and inner parts of the chicken exposed so that people could get a good look into what they are buying. I shot this from hip height, a rare angle for me, as I don’t think she’d have welcomed my taking of this photograph. People there are not quite so open to being photographed as they are in other parts of the world. Something about the fact that this is her job, her way of making money, struck me. Her job is to stand there and try to sell one chicken. Perhaps she had more elsewhere, but she simply stood out in the middle of the aisle, lone chicken in hand, silently waiting for someone to come and purchase her chicken.
Ukraine doesn’t have much of a social safety net. The haves and have nots live strikingly different lives. This is a glimpse into hers.