The foundations have been laid….
Well after spending one week in the Ukraine I am now on the road to starting my biggest project to date. This will see me through my final year at university and long after.
The project is based around the many marriage agencies in the Ukraine, the women looking for marriage and their clients. What I hope to do is give an insight into this world. Who are the men who travel from all over the world to the Ukraine in search of love? Who are the women who register with the agencies? And more to the point, why choose this method to find a partner? This project hopes to look deeper into this and the agencies themselves. Due to the sensitivity and nature of the subject it is not possible for me to reveal everything about this project at present as I am still working with many of the agencies and their clients.
This was the first time where I had used the services of a ‘fixer’, to translate and arrange meetings with the agencies etc.. My fixer also happened to be a documentary photographer so she was also on hand to give advice regarding composition of the images etc.. Fixers are not cheap but they are worth their weight in gold, especially a good one. Rather than pay for a hotel my fixer also arranged an apartment at a very cheap price along with someone to meet me at the airport.
I managed to interview six girls in one day from one of the agencies. They had only recently signed up so it was still very early days yet. Their reasons for joining the agency were varied, and not quite what I expected. I also managed to do a photo shoot with all six at a local park. I promised to forward some copies of the images onto them so they could use them for their portfolios.
The language barrier still remains the biggest issue out here. I managed to meet a Canadian guy who is setting himself up in business teaching Russian so when Im in the Ukraine I will be adding myself to his client base. I see this project lasting a number of years, so the more independent that I am the better.
Corrupt police officers in the Ukraine still seem to remain a major headache. Often spotting people of western appearance and dragging them into a shop doorway or alleyway. This happened to me yet again whilst in the centre of Kiev in broad daylight in front of passing shoppers. Police officers in full uniform requesting a ‘present’ from me. That’s a ‘bribe’ for those not in the know. As always, I refuse and request to be taken to the English embassy. This normal allows you to be sent on your way and left alone, well…until the next time you are spotted anyway.
On my next trip to Kiev I will be tracking down and talking to ex pats (aka ‘sex pats’) who I am hoping will share their stories about dating, marriage and the agencies involved. Again this will involve voice recordings along with images. I also need to head to Mikhailov which seems to be the epicentre of the marriage industry in the Ukraine.
I’m heading out to Perpignan on Wednesday to network with a couple of other photographer’s who have worked on similar projects in the Ukraine. They have expressed an interest in my project and have offered to give me a review of the work done so far.