Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has a robust online social media presence. His official Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts regularly publish photos and messages showing how he fulfills his official duties. But what happens to the photos that never make it to Poroshenko’s official accounts?
Enter Mykhailo Palinchak, the photographer at Poroshenko’s press service. In late December 2014, he decided to create a separate Instagram account for the most interesting, unpublished photos from the president’s life.
But there was a problem: almost no one cared. The account, @apuphoto, has only 573 followers, and some of the photographs don’t even have a single like.
“I didn’t have a specific goal to [have many followers],” Palinchak told Hromadske. “It’s an account that’s being updated when there is time and opportunity for it.”
To followers of presidential photography Palinchak’s story may strike a familiar chord. On January 21, Pete Souza, the White House photographer during Barack Obama’s presidency, launched an Instagram account to post unseen photos from Obama’s life as president. But despite the @petesouza account’s much shorter life, it currently boasts 1.5 million followers.
Inside Poroshenko’s “secret” account
The first post on the @apuphoto account is an artsy image of two microphones with a blurred background. The caption reads: “In few minutes annual press-conference of the President of Ukraine will begin #Ukraine #Kyiv #President.” It was liked by four people.
A mysterious photo of Poroshenko’s press secretary (or more accurately, his shadow) is captioned “reading latest news while flying” and has two likes. What publication is he reading? We will never know and neither will those two people.
This is probably the best photo of Poroshenko on the account. It shows him speaking during a press conference on June 5, 2015. The lighting makes the flags reflect onto Poroshenko’s suit, creating a sophisticated, artsy effect.
The shadow theme continues with a photo of Poroshenko and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s shadows as they walk in Kyiv.
Another photo shows Poroshenko in an unusual scene – drenched by rain while commemorating soldiers who died in the Second World War.
But @apuphoto has not been stagnant. Starting in September 2015, the account has seen improved response from its audience. Since then, each photo receives around 15 likes.
For instance, a photo of the former French President Francois Hollande genially placing his hand on Poroshenko’s forearm in Paris got 18 likes.
And a photo of Poroshenko flying the Ukrainian flag at the Ukraine-Slovenia football game achieved a whopping 47 likes.
The @apuphoto account even has a photograph of Palinchak himself looking closely at a computer screen in the media center during UN Climate Change conference in Paris.
Interestingly, unlike Poroshenko’s personal Instagram account, this page is not moderated, so you can occasionally find an odd comment like “embarrassing suck-ups” under a photograph of the President, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, current Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, and former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden.
It’s difficult to understand why so few people follow this account. After all, it is dedicated to a world leader. Perhaps, the frequent grammar mistakes are to blame. Even the account description is clunkily written: “Pictures Desk of the Administration of the President of Ukraine.”
The account also lacks a profile photo and breaks one of the key Instagram rules: don’t post too many photos a day. On March 20 2015, for example, @apuphoto posted four times.
Even high-level support — Poroshenko liked several of the photos from his official Instagram account — couldn’t seem to help @apuphoto attract more followers. After posting one last photo on May 21, the account basically died.
“Instagram is a social media platform that requires instant uploading,” Palinchak says. “So you take a photo and upload it immediately. Unfortunately, there is not enough time sometimes to do your [official] job, to take pictures and do it well, and to update a social media account on top of that.”
/By Maria Romanenko