Welcome to Odessa, 1910: Tikva Patrons’ Casino


Having photographed hundreds of incredible events for wonderful charities in recent years, it would be difficult to think of a more creative one than this. Our friends at Tikva UK took guests back to the year 1910 in Odessa, Ukraine. Over 90 guests came together at SWAY London for Tikva’s Annual Patrons Evening. Bob Watts, former Creative Producer for Secret Cinema, used the concept of immersive theatre together with a purpose-built set, to take guests on a surprise journey back in time.

Making our way down the concealed steps, with washing lines hanging above, we found a wooden door. The slat opened to reveal a pair of dark eyes “Password?”. We were finally admitted into this underground occasion.

From there, the story unravelled into the former life of Jewish Gangsters; many of whom, in the Jewish imagination at that time, became ‘Robin Hoods’, rising up to defend their people against the horrific pogroms and redistributing the oppressors’ wealth amongst the community. The evening was based upon Isaac Babel’s Odessa Tales and with actors disguised as guests, the re-opening of ‘Truth’, Mob Boss Benya Krik’s Gentleman’s Club and Casino was re-enacted.

This felt genuinely otherworldly, with traditional Jewish shtetl music playing in the background, mob bosses fighting, guests sat at the roulette table amongst the hustle and bustle of a glamorous evening, and the team from Tony Page laying on a spread of traditional Ukranian cuisine.

Our brief was to capture posed shots of distinguished guests having a good time, but we simply had to document the fascinating faces of the characters who made this tale so immersive, so here are some of our favourite shots from a unique evening…