The Lost Enchiridion of the Fergana Valley (2017-ongoing)
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyz areas of the Fergana Valley have been subject to interethnic clashes in recent decades, between Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks. Minorities such as Uzbeks and Tajiks are subject to discrimination. These events, tainted by a post-imperialist, former Soviet landscape, have developed a relationship to everyday life where division and unity are blurred despite the haunting violence of the not-so-distant past. I was once told, knowing somebody for ten years or ten minutes can have equal meaning, and that those relationships are equally important. I say hello, bonjour, privet, salam-malekoum. I look people in the eye. I listen, I respond. I sit down, we break bread. We drink tea. I ask questions. I show love. I show respect. We smile. We laugh. We argue. I’m not a missionary. I don’t act like I know best or represent a society that does. This always comes first, before any photograph is made, taken, constructed, captured or created. Following seven trips to Kyrgyzstan between 2017 and 2022, alongside both extensive field research, discussions and readings, this visual amalgamation attempts to refrain from any documentative purity. This is over half a decade’s worth of bearing witness to people putting on shoes like watching a glacier move. As much an observation as it is a meditation. As much my father’s workplace, who works as a human rights advisor, as it became my workplace, as a photographer. The camera is an opportunity to reach out via kinship and reciprocity. Where is the line between division and unity? These questions become starting points for the image-making, where the quotidian can begin to be unpicked, contemplated and cherished.
Moreover, finding the fine line between how historically opposing factions get along day-to-day in contrast to a violent history and how it all fits together becomes a near-impossible task if relying purely on fact. How does one encompass it all and depict such complexity and nuance with tranquility, dignity and respect, without exaggerating the tragedy nor undermining it?