Olivia was born in London and grew up in the UK. Olivia studied mathematics at Oxford University and photojournalism at the London College of Printing. She began working as a photographer in 2003 after moving to Delhi and was based in India for two and a half years. In 2006 she left for Italy to take up a one-year residency with communications research center Fabrica, during which she began working on a series about women and the East-West cultural divide. This work has taken her to the border between Europe and Asia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
She has received support from the Inge Morath Award, the National Media Museum, OjodePez Photo Espana Award for Human Values. In 2010 she Received the Vic Odden Award from the Royal Photographic Society 'for a notable achievement in the art of photography by a British photographer aged 35 or under’. In 2008 she joined Magnum Photos as a nominee and in 2013 she became a full member. In 2010 she co-founded Fishbar, a space for photography in London with Philipp Ebeling. Her first book Jeddah Diary about young women in Saudi Arabia was published in 2012. In 2013 she completed an Artist Residency with Cuadro Gallery in Dubai.
For this project Olivia worked on a story she called "Crimean diaries". She followed three Crimean families: one Russian, one Ukrainian and one Tatar. The fourth diary came as a result of search someone who felt strong identity with Ukraine or an attempt to understand why it was so hard to find such kind of people. She spent three days with each family learning their living and surrounding. She photographed things that happened with the heroes, the places they visited and tried to look at the Crimea with their eyes. The images are accomponied by short descriptions - quotes and stories about the lead characters, people they communicated with and about all of their lifestyles.
'I don't think there are any Ukrainians in Crimea' , - Dima says - 'We are all Russians'.
'Computer science and psychology are kind of the same thing. The more you know about computers the more you understand the human mind'.
In February when things started getting tense, Dima joined his friends in staging road blocks.
'We were ready to fight the fascists if they came.'
They took shifts overnight outside government buildings.
Olga, Dima's wife, would have joined him a the road blocks if she could have, but she had to look after their son, Slava.
'I would have gone to Kiev myself if I could have', she says passionately.
After the referendum Dima and Olga applied for their Russian passports immediately. When they received them they decided they would go for a celebratory lunch; of course they should go for their lunch on Russia Day.
'We don't believe that the gunmen who took over the airport were sent from Russia. The people here want to be part of Russia, it is a simple as that.'
Dima and Olga live a simple life: they meet their friends in the park, go to the beach.
'Water is rather cold, so Slava doesn't feel like swimming'.
Ismet rises early for prayers. He watches some politics on TV but it makes him angry.
'Lies from the Ukrainians, lies from the Russians.'
No one is telling the truth now and in the Koran it says that if you don't tell the truth you will go to hell.'
'Changes are happening here, we are afraid, there is fear in the community. Last time there was war we were deported. Now there is war again and we are afraid.'
We came back to Ukraine, we settled in Ukraine. And now it is Russia.'
'A lot of Tartars have left Crimea' Ismet says 'they have gone to Kiev, if they have some family link they have been offered to resettle, been given jobs.'
Ismet and his family came back to Crimea 'when Gorbachov came into power and said that democracy would rule'. They came with high hopes but found that people were afraid of the Tartars. '
People had been told to defend themselves from us, with weapons.'
Ismet greets the local Imam at the temporary space they use while they wait for the permit to build a proper mosque.
As a religious figure in the community, Ismet attends his neighbour Mostafa's son's birthday to say prayers for the family.
'We were taught that it is important to learn languages and share with people through language. But when this was Ukraine, people didn't learn Ukrainian.'
'In the last few years with Ukraine there was a lot of corruption and we had no money, no budget in the hospital. Now medics have come from Russia and told us that the standard in the hospital is not good enough.'
Ismet's neighbour Alime tells the story of her family's deportation to Uzbekistan with tears in her eyes.
'I was ten years old. I remember the soldiers coming to our house. My mother asked me to pray but I didn't understand how praying would help.'
Diary of a Search
In a residential suburb of Sevastopol:
- 'So are there any people here who really feel Ukrainian?'
- 'Oh no. There weren't many before, and those that were have left, gone to Kiev.' Says a lady in the playground. ' You should have seen it here, every window had a Russian flag.'
'At the Ukrainian school its just a question of what language we teach in. In fact there is a petition by all the parents to change to Russian now. The children don't know Ukrainian, so they always struggle with it.'
A woman called Galina says she was born in Ukraine 'I have family in Western Ukraine, you could say I am Ukrainian. But I am happy about the changes, its an opportunity, we've been waiting for this.'
'If we hadn't become Russian then we'd be in a situation like they are now in Eastern Ukraine. We are thankful.'
A fruit seller tells us 'I have never seen it so organised, so together, as when they went to support the change. We used to have big May Day celebrations but nothing as enthusiastic as this.'
A man down by the chess players had been shouting out his opinions, openly pro-Ukrainian. We go in search of him… 'Why do you want to meet him? What is this about?' They eye us with suspicion, aggression even.
Ruslan, a taxi-driver, tells us that his wife's family are strongly pro-Ukrainian.
- 'Could we meet them, talk to them maybe?'
- 'No. No'.
We drive past a huge mural of Putin in a wheat field with perfect blue sky. 'I was driving the guys who came to paint it,' he told us 'They came from Moscow. But they started painting with just the yellow of the field and the blue sky. Some local Babushkas thought they were painting the Ukrainian flag and called the police.'
A newspaper reports the story of a village where the central church is of Ukrainian Orthodox. Inside the church the woman insists that it has always belonged to the Moscow Patriarchate.
The local Ukrainian church in Perevalnoye was on a military base, previously Ukrainian now Russian. The congregation was no longer allowed to meet.
Hearing our questions about the church in Perevalnoe, an old man guides us to the 'priest's son'. Ivan and his father had moved there 13 years previously and build a small chapel adjoining their house.
'My father and I started holding services in the chapel by our house' Ivan told us 'but it is much harder for people to travel there. We used to get 200 at the services, now we get about 70.'
'We used to be friends with everyone in the community, we didn't think about the place people came from. But now the Russians start to feel they have more power, become more aggressive. Now people think about 'sides' which were never there before.'
People tell Ivan that he should change his affiliation to the Moscow Patriarchate and then he could continue his practice in peace. But he studied in the Ukrainian church and his services are in Ukrainian, it doesn't make sense to him.
Ivan's father left for Kiev but they both hope that he returns and they finish building their church and go on working in Crimea.
Valentina works with a group of Veterans in Yalta.
'We grew up in the Soviet Union, we fought for the Soviet Union. Of course we feel Russian. It is in our blood, in our history.'
Valentina was born in Ukraine, she has lived most of her life in Crimea, she considers herself Russian.
Since rejoining Russia the salaries of the Veterans have increased, some by two or three times, some are now ten times more.'Of course life is better now!'
'Salaries have increased but prices have all increased as well. We will have to wait and see if we will all be better off.''The cruise ships that used to come have not come this year. The media is spreading a lot of fear about Crimea. A lot of propaganda.'Valentina's family are split, her children live in Russia, her siblings live in Ukraine.
Valentina's niece Sasha has come to visit her from Ukraine. 'Everyone was telling me not to come. There is so much being said about Crimea, how expensive it is now, how difficult it would be to cross the border.'
On the train from Ukraine, Sasha was amazed to find it nearly empty. At the border it was not complicated. 'They were checking the men thoroughly because they don't want any activists in but women and children were waved across easily.'
'I don't believe in all this divisiveness, we all used to be the same, we should all be Russian now' says Valentina 'when you look at Crimea and you look at Ukraine now, we are just happy not to be at war, things are peaceful here'.
Sasha's family is also divided over the Russia-Ukraine conflict. She and her brother fought hard about it.
'But I told him, lets just be brother and sister, put our beliefs aside. I grew up to believe in family first and I want to cary on that way.'
Sasha says that the tipping point for her was the burning of the pro-Russians in Odessa. She hopes to apply for refugee status in Crimea and eventually get a Russian passport too. 'My brother calls me a separatist'.
Together Valentina and Sasha went to Simferopol for the Russia Day celebrations
'It was wonderful, a huge celebration, we were so happy.'