I always find it important to step away from Digital Photography every so often, to find a certain discipline in what and how I'm shooting. The convenience of using a Canon digital is certainly a blessing in many circumstances but for every other picture I took travelling round Australia, I made sure I dedicated some time and love towards the analogue world. The results always feel that bit warmer and sincere.
Following our mission around the center of Kiev and the sobering effects of reflecting on past events at Independence Square, Dima and I headed back towards the direction of our Hostel but not without what turned out to be a long stop off at a local Ukrainian bar. The beers started to flow and we found ourselves in deep discussion over the disparities between the wages in our home countries. He would show me how much something cost in the Ukraine to which I would then calculate the equivalent were it priced in the UK (more specifically London) - the disbelief on his face each time I turned the calculation round, we'd end up in fits of laughter at how far apart it was. At the same time I tried to remind Dima that whilst an earning in London might appear significant to someone living in the Ukraine with that same figure, he should be more than grateful he's been able to build his own house off his income, something unheard of at least in my experience of London in the current climate.
As the night got later and our heads got lighter we worked our way into the bar, by which time there was a band playing. I can only really remember hearing lots of Metallica covers which although I wasn't quite expecting (I could have been thrown back into Camden at 16 years old for a moment), it seemed to go down extremely well with everyone inside. Dima and I sat back down and talk turned to our partners back at home. It was fascinating sharing and challenging the expectations of our different backgrounds. Married and with a child, he could not understand the concept that shared my home with a woman I wasn't married to with no child at 30 years of age. I guess I hadn't thought too hard about it previously as it seems much more common within my circles in London. I challenged him as to why he thought this was so strange, him saying if I didn't have kids now I was going to be an old man with no strength to nurture them. It was at this point we decided to have an arm wrestle to settle the dispute. Here I was, at a bar in the middle of Kiev, having an arm wrestle to settle a dispute about having kids.
Unfortunately I lost (sorry kids) but it seemed to spark a harmless game of arm wrestles between some other locals. Lucky for me Dima won those rounds too so despite the sore head in the morning I slept a little better that night.
With some Ukrainian vodka now working its magic, Dima took me out to the streets and through the underground by train. He was walking at pace, with a determination and excitement to show me everything Kiev meant to him.
After hopping trains and escalators, we walked out into the heart of the city at Khreschatyk Street. I wasn't sure what I was expecting to see, but after days of experiencing the abandoned and small village side of Ukraine, being in the heart made me understand it's true vibrancy as a capital city. As we walked the street he would point frantically at different things, urging me to take pictures, introducing me to random people on the way with the phrase "from London" as if parading me proudly round the streets.
Up until this point I'd yet to have knowingly experienced any spots of historic significance within Kiev but I had heard "Independence Square" frequently mentioned and had in fact got a tiny glimpse of the huge statue which stands there, high above the skyline on my first evening driving into Kiev - I still remember the perfect orange sunset across the whole city coming in from the soviet tower block lined motorway. At this point Dima stopped marching, stood still and looked towards the huge towering column to which a statue of Berehynia stands on top - the female spirit seen as a protector of Kiev. I could feel that Dima was moved by something at this point and as he took me around he did his best to articulate the tragedies that had taken place within the area of the square, the deaths of Ukranian people on the very space which we stood. Though I hadn't fully understood the significance at the time, I felt his patriotism towards his country and the people who had lost their lives here, with only pictures left lining the street as a memory he said his prayers and we stood in silence. I remember being rather taken back by Dima's reaction to this at the time, along with his determination that people outside of the Ukraine needed to understand what his country had and was going through in the struggle for independence. We left and headed onwards on our journey.
Upon getting back to London I've since made sure I've educated myself on the things Dima was trying to articulate to me and have been astonished by the still so recent struggles within the Ukraine. I highly recommend watching the truly powerful documentary "Winter of Fire", focusing on the political rallies which took place in Maidan Nezalezhnosti over the winter of 2013 into 2014. The tragic but utterly heroic events have changed the future of the country and I have an incredible amount of admiration for the Ukranian people.
This is Dima. After spending two days wandering Chernobyl and Pripyat I arrived back in Kiev and began the hunt for a bed. After catching the bus - I still remember everyone just throwing their currency into a small tray next to the driver - through the city and a short stroll, I found the hostel I was to call home for the night.
As it was my last night and I'd found some kind of abandoned structure to explore the following day, I opened the door to my room expecting a somewhat welcomed uneventful night. However Dima was sat at a small table in the room, with some bread, cheese & vodka. I looked at the top bunk I was allocated, back at all my stuff I had dragged up the stairs and all I heard was "sit!", Dima pointing to a chair directly opposite him at the table. At first I felt I was sitting down for an interrogation and with little but broken words spoken between eachother he poured me a vodka and demanded I have some cheese. After a toast to the four walls of our tiny hostel room, I could see this was just his way of two strangers connecting where language on both sides wasn't a strength. Another vodka down, Dima was adamant he was taking me and my camera on a tour of the capital city of his country. That was to be the beginning of an eventful last night in Kiev.
Walking the streets of Kiev. Perhaps coming from London, there's something about visiting another city or country that I always want to travel on the underground to see what it's like. It's also the challenge of not getting lost but even if you do, the enjoyment of people watching in an unknown environment where no one knows you.
Shortly after wandering through this market I finally came to my destination. An abandoned factory I was itching to explore. However after much snooping around the outskirts my only means of entrance looked to be a guarded front gate. My first obstacle, going and asking the guard if he spoke English was successful but after a glimpse of hope when he radioed his boss, that was as far as my luck went for this particular venture. This girls expression pretty much summed it up.
Walking the streets of Kiev. After some aimless wandering and managing to work my way on the underground, I came across this market. I'm not sure whether this woman was a trader or a shopper but she looked extremely happy either way.