Dean O'Brien's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Marriage Agency

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

Katya’s Story – The Finale

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It’s been almost two years since I last heard from Katya.  We became good friends during my Destination Unknown project and she always spoke very honestly about her personal situation and the ongoing problems in Ukraine.

What she did was to offer me a true genuine insight into the daily lives of people such as herself.  And what made Katya a great subject for me to work with was the fact that she was not your stereotypical slavic sex siren.  Katya was 40, highly educated and dare I say ‘looked fairly normal’.  This is what the project was about though.  Documenting those who were genuinely looking for love.  I made a conscious decision to avoid the sex tourists and prostitutes which were giving the industry a bad name.

In a short photo film which I made with Katya Here she spoke very honestly about her own situation and not knowing what the future would bring.  So after losing touch with Katya there were times where I was worried about what had become of her.  Had she left Ukraine?  Did she find Mr.Right?  Had something bad happened to her?

I had sent Katya the occasional email and text but never received any response.  I figured that she had decided not to continue with the project or had found a partner.  After doing some research last week I’m pleased to report that Katya is now living in Washington DC and is engaged to be married.

And that my friends, is where Katya’s story ends.


Written by Dean O'Brien

December 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Girls On Film

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If there is one thing that I don’t make enough of it’s photo films.  Images placed together with sound to engage an audience.  There is no doubt that it does bring a project to life, and that by adding sound it does make the subject more ‘real’.

I’m planning to present more of my work this way in future.  I’m guessing it’s a much more visually pleasing experience for those reading my blog on tablets or smart phone and lets face it, everything is about convenience these days.

Below is one of the first photo films I made with Katya.  Katya was searching for a partner through a marriage agency in Kyiv, Ukraine.  It was part of a larger project ‘Destination Unknown’ which documented marriage agencies and those who join them.

What the film managed to do was open peoples eyes to the real issues here.  Many here in the UK have the opinion that these women just want a British passport and to leave Ukraine.  However, after spending time with Katya it emerged that this was not the case.  Given the choice most women would prefer to remain in Ukraine, but due to social conditions (poor work opportunities, poor pay, corrupt government and Police etc…), not to mention a huge shortage of men (Ukraine has approx 3.5 million women more than men) they have no choice but to look further afield.

[vimeo 33946654]

Written by Dean O'Brien

August 18, 2013 at 9:19 am