Alexander Komenda – Lost Enchiridion of The Fergana Valley

Stories 2022 Shortlist

Based in
Finland

Photographed in
Kyrgyzstan

I shake hands. 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 or taken. Following seven trips to Kyrgyzstan alongside extensive research, the southern regions of the country presented intrigue: a shrouded narrative tainted by a history of geopolitical conflict. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyz areas of the Fergana Valley have been subject to interethnic clashes, mostly between Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks. In 2010, there were violent clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Osh and Jalalabad. In 2021, allocation of water via old canal systems fueled a new conflict in the Batken region between Tajiks and Kyrgyz. Minorities such as Uzbeks and Tajiks can be subject to discrimination. These events, tainted by a post-imperialist former Soviet landscape, are reshaping these regions in relation to everyday life, such as a rise in nationalist sentiment via government action. The camera is an opportunity to reach out via kinship and reciprocity. Where is the line between division and unity? What does everyday life look like with this backdrop? How can anti-sensationalist visual narratives address such contentions that encompass its nuances? These are all questions that inform the making of these images. Through an amalgamation of portraits, objects, landscapes and metaphors, the meanings formed between all begin to tell a nuanced story via a long-term documentary photography approach. Moreover, significant themes and motifs such as water contention, post-Soviet colonial landscape, borders, the everyday, collective memory and history can all have a place both within and between images.

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