There's no doubt that images have the power to shape history. That's even more true for war photos such as photojournalist Nick Ut's "Napalm Girl" photo or Eddie Adams' "Saigon Execution" photo, two images that really helped shape American views of the Vietnam conflict. In 2022, it's modern-day 360 images that will have the power to truly show the devastation of Ukraine.
360-degree photos have long had their place in real-estate photography and art photography, but they haven't effectively been used for photojournalism duty. Much of that might be the barrier of entry for equipment or the ability of end users to truly be able to watch these photos in an immersive way without something like an Oculus Quest headset. I've toyed with the concept myself for Black Lives Matter protests in previous years. It was a laborious effort, but one that provided a perspective that no single still photo could provide.
Such is the case with the work of Nickolay Omelchenko, a Ukrainian virtual tour photographer who has found himself in the unenviable position of 360 photojournalist with the war raging on in Ukraine. Omelchenko's series of before and after photos of popular areas in Ukraine have been shared through 360 videographer and YouTuber Hugh Hou. Omelchenko compares areas that he captured in 360 before Russia's invasion of Ukraine with the devastation and destruction after the troops had been through, and the bombs had been dropped. Once beautiful areas bustling with tourists in "before" photos are now rubble and ash in "after" photos. With the 360 photos, you're able to pan around and see the damage all around, which truly gives a sense of scope as to how extensive the damage is. It's clear from Omelchenko's work that the country will take a long time to recover from this conflict.
While the video gives you one way to look at the damage, Omelchenko has also put together a series of virtual tours that you can move through to see what's happened in even higher resolution. It's an incredibly meaningful use of his talent as a virtual tour-maker to document history in a way it's never been able to be documented before.
One can only hope that viewing these images can open eyes to the horrors of the current conflict in Ukraine.