Text by Jonas Bendiksen. This culmination of a fascinating seven-year photographic journey takes viewers through the countries and enclaves once held in orbit by the immense gravity of Moscow, the nucleus of the Soviet empire. Now each region is on its own in a chaotic political environment, sometimes without diplomatic recognition from neighbors, much less the international community. Abkhazia, an unrecognized country on the Black Sea, was once the natural pearl of the empire, where bellicose generals and productive factory managers came to relax.
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While there, he produced the images for Satellites — Photographs from the Fringes of the former Soviet Union, which was published in I mean there are these breakaway republics such as Transnistria and Abkhazia, that exist physically — they have their own borders and governments — but which are unrecognised. Even where his subjects are at the beach, dancing or relaxing, they are caught without their clothes on or looking faintly ridiculous. Few people smile. Perhaps the view of a privileged outsider who did not see the forms of resistance that people generate in the face of unrelenting odds or who wished only to capture the struggle.
This is a familiar form of contemporary documentary photography and may have its roots in the northern eurocentrism of a previous age. It is a gaze that pities, perhaps, but which does not share the soul of those whose lives on which it falls. It may be easier to imagine these people and places as having no real existence; as satellites on the edge of our world. It may make it easier to take photographs of them without too much discomfort but it is a narrow, disengaged and distant view. Share this:.
Behind the Image: Jonas Bendiksen’s Satellites
It is the latter of these that brought Bendiksen to the Altai Territory in Russia in , where he took the photograph of two villagers collecting scrap metal from the wreckage of a crashed spacecraft that would become the cover of the book. What is happening in this photograph? There are two young guys, local farmers I think, who are pulling copper wire from the hull of a crashed Soyuz spacecraft — specifically the second booster stage. As we know, everything that goes up eventually comes down, and each time a space rocket launches from Baikonur the massive booster stages fall down to earth once their fuel is depleted.
Satellites par Jonas Bendiksen