Dean O'Brien's Blog

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First post of the year

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Welcome to my first blog post of the year.

I find it hard to write about Ukraine and what’s happening at the moment.  Somebody at work said to me the other day ‘The war’s stopped in Ukraine now hasn’t it?’  I replied ‘What makes you say that?’  and he said ‘Well you never hear anything about it on the news anymore’.  And that’s the problem isn’t it?  The western media refuse to cover the conflict for reasons only known to them.

There are a very small number of freelance journalists and photographers who have travelled out to the conflict zones and are reporting form there, but obviously they are few and far between and restricted financially.  And with no financial backing, their time in these areas is limited.

I recently heard about two Dutch journalists Stefan Beck and Michel Spekkers who travelled to Donbass to do just this and had their equipment seized when they arrived back at Schiphol Airport.  You can read about the confiscation of their material Here.  Okay, the seizure was linked to material relating the the MH17 flight disaster, but the fact that ‘all’ their material was seized (including street interviews with people not related to MH17) left a big question mark as to the motive of such actions.

Transparency is the key here.  Journalists and photographers should be free to go unhindered when returning back to their native countries.  Authorities attempting to take some form of control over what footage can or can’t be seen is a big no no.  It only leads to numerous accusations and defeats the object of obtaining such material in the first place.

Without stating the obvious, there are lessons to be learned here of course.  Prepare for the worst.  Make back ups of your footage and if you suspect that you might be getting ‘lifted’ on your return, find another way to get your equipment back into the country.  I already know of many journalists who deactivate their finger print recognition on their phone when going through customs for fear of being forced to unlock their phone and its contents.  Real world problems eh?



Written by Dean O'Brien

January 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

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Children Of Leningradsky (Full Movie)

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Poverty Porn.  I believe that seems to be the new terminology for programmes gracing our televisions these days.  From programmes about benefit cheats and the unemployed to those who have fallen into debt, they’re all there.

In many countries of the former Soviet Union though, it’s on a different level altogether.  Children abandoned at a very young age are left to fend for themselves.  Drawn into substance abuse, prostitution, crime and gangs.

Hanna Polak is a Polish film director, cinematographer and producer.  She took the streets of Moscow and produced the film below ‘Children Of Leningradsky’ in 2005.  It documents the lives of those children and the hardships they face on a day to day basis.

Although produced in 2005, not much has changed in Moscow or many other countries of the former Soviet Union.

Written by Dean O'Brien

January 16, 2016 at 9:18 am

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Only The Lonely

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As the weather has now started to turn, winter tours in Ukraine can be tough so I’m in no immediate rush to get back out there.

It’s time like this I turn to my box of 6×6 images.  Taken when I was studying for my degree at university here in Coventry, there are hundreds.  But one image that always jumps out at me is the one below of Natasha.

This is one of the last that I took of Natasha and I remember the day well.  I’d agreed to take pictures of her, and in typical Ukrainian fashion it consisted of holding flowers, hugging trees or statues and posing near monuments.

These were the shots she wanted and are typical of the images which grace the profiles of many a pretty ‘devushka’ on VK and similar social media platforms.  On any given day, you’ll see young ladies all over Ukraine (and many other former Soviet countries) doing exactly the same.

Later in the day, I managed to convince Natasha to take me to where she lived.  Her home environment.  We took a bus ride to a small soviet apartment block on the outskirts of Kiev which she shared with her friends.  It was fairly cramped by western standards but considered ‘normalna’ for many here.

Cramped but comfortable, religious icons shared the shelves with perfume and nail polish.  We sat in the kitchen, drank lemon tea, chatted about life in Ukraine and what the future might hold.

She always looked immaculate though and one would never have placed her in such humble surroundings.  She’d have looked more at home stepping into a Bentley down on Khreschatyk with an array of designer shopping bags.

The strange thing is, when I started documenting those who joined marriage agencies in Ukraine I thought it was all about ‘love’ and the search for it.  But after a showing people a selection of my images it’s not about that at all.  Or that’s not how it came across to people anyway.

I think I was getting ready to present my images for an exhibition at the The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham when somebody said ‘When I look at these pictures Dean, I don’t feel they are about love, but more about loneliness’.  And after closer analysis, I realised that’s exactly what they were about.


Written by Dean O'Brien

November 1, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Graduation ceremony at Coventry Cathedral

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Well November 19th 2012 was the day.  After three long years of studying, I was finally graduating at a ceremony at Coventry Cathedral.  Yes, my time at Coventry University had officially come to an end.

My time at Coventry was not just about learning more about the art of image making.  It was also about a journey of self discovery.  Discovering what really matters to me in life and how I wish to pursue it.

I came into the course with an open mind as to the kind of photography which I wanted to pursue and found a true passion for social documentary and editorial work.  This enabled me to travel to Ukraine and start to work on a number of projects which are still ongoing.

Receiving a First Class BA (Hons) degree in photography made the journey worthwhile…

Written by Dean O'Brien

November 23, 2012 at 5:03 pm

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Lest we forget…

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As today is Remembrance Sunday it brings home to us all the atrocities of war.  Regardless of race, colour. creed or nation, those around the world who gave their lives are remembered.

Last year as I travelled around Ukraine one could not help but notice the amount of statues and monuments that remember those fallen in wars.  Often tended every day with fresh flowers, they are a true testament to how the fallen are remembered by those still alive.

Written by Dean O'Brien

November 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Ukraine, Uncategorized

Sheffield exhibition opening…

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Well if you read my previous post below you will know that my work is being exhibited at an exhibition in Sheffield for one month at Hutton’s Buildings.

After driving to Sheffield last week to deliver my images,  I returned again on Friday night for the official opening of the exhibition.  Not only was I there to see how my work had been presented, but also to look at some of the other work being displayed.  It’s a great exhibition so if you get the chance then do pop along (details in the blog post below)

I return back to Sheffield on 9th December when the five winning exhibitors will be announced.

Written by Dean O'Brien

November 10, 2012 at 11:47 pm

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Sheffield Photographic Competition at Hutton’s Buildings

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It’s been a busy week.  Yesterday I travelled up to Sheffield to drop off ten images for the Hutton’s Buildings Creative Exhibition. The exhibition is exhibiting 78 peoples work with five eventually being selected to go on to exhibit at White Cloth Gallery in Leeds alongside  Donald Weber.  A proper golden opportunity to gain some great exposure.

This is also an opportunity for me to get my project seen by a much wider audience and hopefully some media exposure for my ongoing project in Ukraine.

Anyway, the competition is on for a whole month so try and get yourselves along.  Opening night is Friday 9th November 6.30pm and closing night is Saturday 8th December when the winners will be announced.

Written by Dean O'Brien

November 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized