Dean O'Brien's Blog

352mc Professional Photographic Practice: Guillaume Herbaut’s 2nd prize World Press Photo and how it was viewed in Ukraine

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When I first started looking into Ukraine and the situation there I knew all was not what it seemed.  Documenting marriage agencies is much more complex that one might first think.  The fact that so many women who live in Ukraine want to leave, comes down to more than just the desire to meet a partner.  A corrupt government, corrupt Police department and huge mafia presence is driving people, especially young women away.  Away from their families and the country they love.  They leave because they know that change is not coming.

So how are photographer’s viewed here who work on projects in Ukraine?  Especially Western photographer’s.  Do we go into there with a fresh set of eyes, or are we drawn to the obvious?  Katya, a Ukrainian subject who I am working with is less than impressed with the majority of work produced by many photographer’s who come to Ukraine.  Recently, Guillaume Herbaut’s photo of a Ukrainian feminist protestor received 2nd prize singles in the Portraits category at World Press Photo.  I wanted to know what she thought of this image..

She states ‘I’ll have a closer look into the work of this photographer in Ukraine. Right now it seems to me that he sees Ukraine as most foreigners, Femen (girls with naked breasts) and Chornobyl. Not too deep. Westerners are afraid to dive deep into this reality, even these photographers whom you consider genious, they are not able to realise and show what is happening here. I am sorry, Dean, maybe I disappoint you but it takes time and real involvement to show the realistic picture of this crazy country. When I see the pictures of that photographer, which can be a real revelation for Westerners, for me it is like a kindergarten level. I am sorry.’

I have to say that this was not what I was expecting to hear about the image, but fully understand the desperation of the people in Ukraine.  They want the social conditions documented.  The every day struggles that the people who live there face.  The image below was always going to shock Westerners to some extent and grab some attention.  Although Katya’s views are justified and fully understandable, I still feel that it may make people want to look further into why groups such as Femen feel that they need to demonstrate in this way, and hence help to open up a debate into underlying issues within this troubled country.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

February 12, 2012 at 11:08 am

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