Elliott Verdier - Large Format Photojournalism
French documentary photographer Elliott Verdier, at the age of 25, has already dedicated his life to photojournalism and documentary photography. It seems fitting that his 2016 series, A Shaded Path, would be received with critical acclaim from the likes of The British Journal of Photography, Lensculture, and Format considering he has always known exactly what direction he wanted his life to take. He distinctly remembers his childhood afternoons spent with his Godfather, combing through his photographic and documentary print collection of far off lands, peoples, and cultures. He loved the idea of these photographers traveling to distant places and living exciting lives as a cultural jet setter with nowhere else to travel to but forward onto their next adventure. These feelings of invigorating wanderlust would propel him to pursue a career as a photojournalist.
In 2016, Verdier set out to capture his series A Shaded Path, the story of the Kyrgyz Republic, a landlocked former republic of the Soviet Republic. More commonly known as Kyrgyzstan, this land locked central Asian country is surrounded on all sides by four other countries including the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with China taking up it’s eastern border.
Over the last three decades the country of Kyrgyzstan has struggled to find stable footing in the post-industrial era. The fall of the Soviet Union took Kyrgyzstan's economy with it, but also granted this region's people a national identity. Via this new identity there has been inevitable political instability: the region has seen two revolutions and over twenty prime ministers. Similar to the countries political uncertainty, the people themselves are at a crossroads. Stuck between the former glory of their Soviet identity and economy and it’s aging infrastructure, Verdier observed: “I noticed it at first with the old people I’d met. You can feel their confusion living in a country full of doubts. A lot of things there didn’t change with the fall of the USSR; they just got old. Cities of course, but minds also. There is also pride. The USSR was powerful, and Kyrgyzstan was a part of this power. Today it is a forgotten, voiceless country”.
Where A Shaded Path excels in capturing the story of Kyrgyzstan is Verdier’s use of capturing it’s beautifully preserved landscapes. Verdier’s landscapes represent how society and environment are intertwined with culture and fate. Though these images are devoid of individuals they clearly show traces of their passage through them. The land there is a large part of its tradition and has shaped its people’s lives since before this land was originally settled. The juxtaposition of landscapes and portraits show that though we may try to overcome and adapt to our surroundings, time has a way of always being on mother nature’s side. The fleetingness of man is captured by nature’s slow and persistent desire to swallow all the things the former Soviet Union had built.
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