Photographer Mark Neville – This book wanted to prevent the war in Ukraine – Culture


“Stop Tanks with Books”: With his photos from eastern Ukraine, Mark Neville wanted to shake the powerful – from Justin Trudeau to Sean Penn. Now the Briton himself has become a fugitive.

Warfare captured in photo: Ukrainians photographed by Mark Neville for his photo book “Stop Tanks with Books” have war written all over their faces. The people in the portraits come mainly from areas in eastern Ukraine that have been fought for for years.

They usually look directly at the camera, their eyes give an idea of ​​the misery they have experienced. “When I was planning the book seven years ago, one of my goals was to draw Western attention to Ukraine. “Their commitment to the fight to keep Ukraine independent.”


The three children of the Orthodox Church choir look serious and mature on Neville’s camera.

Mark Neville

Caught by war

Mark Neville, who has lived in Ukraine for years, was at his apartment in Kiev when the first bombs fell. Shortly afterwards he fled with his wife, who was in poor health, first to Poland and then to France, Marseille. “The beautiful weather here is good for us. In a sense, we have avoided conflict. “But you certainly can not save them anywhere,” says Neville.

In fact, the Briton seems unable to escape the war: between 2015 and 2018 he accompanied paratroopers to Afghanistan as a war photographer. When he returned to the UK, experience caught up with him. What followed was post-traumatic stress disorder.

The man with the camera and tripod in his hand, stands in a photo room and looks at the camera.


To the Ukrainians, Neville recognized his war trauma.

Mark Neville

Before starting the project “Stop Tanks with Books”, he initially wanted to give up photography. Even in the current situation, he is facing it: “Since I became a refugee myself, it has been very difficult for me to take pictures of other refugees. “This horrible experience overwhelmed me.”

Awaken the mighty of the world

The book specifically aims to draw people to positions of power. Neville sent the first edition of 750 books to politicians, members of the European Parliament, the rich and famous. These include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American actor Sean Penn.

Little has happened. Neville received almost no response, phone call or email. “It shocks and amazes me a lot. I think the book will still do something for people. “Books find their way into people’s minds and hearts in an almost insidious way.”

The signs of war went unnoticed

“Stop Tanks with Books” should have prevented the current war, according to Mark Neville. It was too late.

He appeared four days before the Russian invasion on February 24th. “What really worries me is that I, a guy with a camera, have seen the full outbreak of war coming in for seven years. “This means that many high-ranking politicians in the West saw what was coming and did nothing.”

A woman with a lid sits on the bench, smokes a cigarette and looks into the distance.


In a total of 80 photographs, Neville documents life in eastern Ukraine.


Neville feels much more emotionally attached to Ukraine than to his native UK. “It’s deeply personal to me, it’s my home and I have the right to say something and I’ll do it.”

Aid convoy to Kiev

Neville’s connection with Ukraine knows no borders. Again and again he travels from Warsaw in convoys of aid to Kiev to deliver aid and to be in the country. What people there need most, however, is financial aid and a quick end to the war, according to Neville.

Even if the response to his book was small, Neville is clear that photography can make a difference. Culture is indispensable in time of war. “Cultural representations ensure that people feel a connection to what happened.”

His photographs are on display at an exhibition at the Albert Museum and Victoria in London. In addition, according to Neville, he will hold a press conference before the European Parliament in Brussels.

He remains convinced that his book will make the difference.

book reference

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Mark Neville: “Stop the tanks with books.” Nazraeli Press, 2022.

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