A white painted stone sits atop a pile of concrete from a fallen telephone pole. A seemingly random assortment of rubble, it has in fact been gathered to fasten a manhole cover in place. During a period of particular hardship in Ukraine in the 1990s, manhole covers were often stolen and sold for scrap metal, leaving dangerous open holes in the road. This makeshift device, erected over time out of miscellaneous materials, is one of the objects in Viacheslav Poliakov’s Lviv – God’s Will, a taxonomy of the “unexplored field of accidents” that make up his surrounding urban environment.
French documentary photographer Elliott Verdier’s A Shaded Path highlights the endless paradoxes of a region fossilised by its longstanding history of being forgotten. Kyrgyzstan is a peculiar place, completely landlocked by mountain ranges – a feature that has preserved its culture while simultaneously reinforcing its susceptibility to external domination. Since its official relinquishment from Soviet control in the early 1990s, the country has returned to its resting state of self-sufficient isolation. From October 2016 to February 2017, Verdier photographed Kyrgyzstan’s industrial factories, embedded in sprawling landscapes that are populated by the touching subjects in his accompanying portraits. Shortly after settling into his daily routine, the photographer began to notice a marked difference between the collective nostalgia of the country’s older and younger generations
Taking inspiration from the DIY culture of his homeland during the Soviet era, Belarusian photographer Alexey Shlyk’s series of playfully staged photographs explores craftsmanship and resourcefulness.
This year marked the 100th anniversary to the October Revolution; the Bolshevik coup lead by Vladamir Lenin that would result in the Russian Civil War (1917-22) and, ultimately, the foundation of the USSR and the communist regime that lasted until 1991. In the BJP’s latest issue, we try to understand something of the vast history of the Eastern Bloc.
Maria Gruzdeva is no stranger to remote and solitary parts of the world. Her last book, The Borders of Russia, saw her travel more than 6000km along the border of her home country, documenting the isolated communities at its edges. While shooting it she came across the near-forgotten town of Tkvarcheli, and became so intrigued it turned into a spin-off project in its own right. Her work on it has now been published as a photobook, The Song of Tkvarcheli, funded by the Gabriele Basilico International Prize in Architecture and Landscape Photography. “In the Soviet era, the region was widely known for its opulent nature, salubrious climate, seaside resorts and sanatoriums,” says Gruzdeva; Tkvarcheli was once heralded as one of the most perfectly designed towns in this feted area. “In better times, working and living in Tkvarcheli was regarded a privilege – not just by miners, but by engineers and academics as well,” she explains. “The town was created to embody a dream. An idea to create a perfect city pervaded the minds of Soviet architects …
The September issue brings the otherwise invisible into sharp focus. Invisible World explores forgotten conflicts, intimate retreats, abused landscapes and remote islands to uncover the hidden realities and unknown societies behind ordinary backdrops. “As social beings, we all demand to be seen,” says Hoda Afshar, whose latest series, Behold, takes us to an exclusive male-only bathhouse. Her point resonates with all the photoseries explored in this issue: how do we negotiate our surroundings, how do we see our societies, how do we interpret our world? We need to first see the invisible to answer these ever salient questions.