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The Great Game: Travels in the Former Soviet Union

Frank Ward | Former Soviet Union

Quilted Map of the World, Vladivostok, Russian Far East, 2008

“The Great Game” was the name given to the 19th century conflict between Britain and Russia for political control of Central Asia. The 20th century resulted in communist domination of the region and their winning “The Great Game.” The 21st century offers an ongoing struggle to overcome the multi-layered devastation left by the former Soviet Union. Russia, Ukraine, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are caught between the superpowers of the European Union and the Peoples Republic of China. They face the challenge of rebuilding and restructuring in a rapidly changing world.

This portfolio is like travel writing with a camera, although my pictures contain few scenic vistas or landmarks. Evidence of the Silk Road with mountain views or vast steppes is sparse. The empires of the Khans remain mostly buried in the dust. My interpretation is of the present. What is life like now, how is culture manifested, and where is the influence of our global interconnectedness? These questions linger as I make portraits, landscapes, and celebrate what is— a quilt, a chair, a railroad station, a corridor, a loaf of bread.

Photography is the method I use to make sense of things around me. Often my subjects are populations in transition and cultures at risk. As a documentary photographer I have worked with refugees, immigrants, nomads, pilgrims, and exiles. I prefer to avoid war and other disasters, but I make an effort to face trouble’s aftermath and look for visual notations of social well-being or distress. I search for the beauty of individuals within the uncertainty of circumstances. I look for the possibility of transcendence in spite of political or social opposition. Photography is my way to comprehend to the world around me.

 

fmward@gmail.com

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