Ksenia: What would your advice be for young photographers who plan to go to war for the first time?
Paolo: Proceed slowly. Understand there's no rush. I know what you're saying: there is, especially in young photographers, this desire to go and to expose themselves in that space. There is a large picture where we deal with macro issues of history and countries, but then there's the individual stories of the people that you encounter. The latter is such a fragile and delicate space that you have the privilege to enter. You have to treat it with the best of yourself and understand that it could be you – how would you like to be treated and photographed in that situation?
Ksenia: We're often a bit overwhelmed by sad and difficult stories. Of course, it's very necessary to document and to show it, but sometimes I feel that there is no space for optimistic stories. I see this as one of my goals: to try to find something positive, even in the worst situations. For example, in Abkhazia I tried to show the war area in a different light – to concentrate on traditions and on the soul of this region. Abkhazia means 'country of the soul'.
Paolo: You're absolutely correct, of course. At the same time, for the most part, I still believe that it is important to take these pictures. Imagine there is no coverage, no photography, no journalists. Then, for the powers that be, there's no accountability. I think by being there, it is a form of not letting things become even worse. But for sure, there is a need for other stories. It doesn't have to be happy, sad, or positive and negative, but to reflect the complexity of life. It is never one thing: tragedy always coexists with beauty, and joy exists with sorrow.