jason andrew – twilight country

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Jason Andrew

Twilight Country

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The Anonymous Republic of Abkhazia

Through a poetic sense of light and color, I find an attraction to the atrocities brought on by Mother Nature and mankind. The contrasting beauty between the savagery of ruin and rebirth of destroyed lives creates a romantic idea of what once was there, conveying a different feeling for each person that witnesses the images. The loneliness and solitude is what drove me to document the apocalyptic scenes of Abkhazia, its people, and how they continue to suffer from the effects of war 15 years later.

The Images take us on a sinister, eerie tour of a country whose only existence centers around their military and patriotism. Alone and stagnant, Abkhazia struggles with the meaning of war and self-declared independence, clutching the ankles of Russia for support while shadowing themselves from the economic and social embargoes imposed on them from Georgia and the rest of the world.

The countries decaying skeleton is a physical manifestation to the pain and misery suffered by the Abkhaz people and their struggles to free themselves from the iron grip of a war long gone with Georgia. Abkhazia remains desolate and wounded, a dilapidated corpse left for dead. Only the internal sense of pride and joy can be seen through the military, their beacon of light and pride. Once the Riviera of the Caucus region, Abkhazia now caters to budget conscious Russians while struggling with their own sense of independence, crawling back to Mother Russia and into her womb in search of comfort and security, unable to recover from the economic disasters of a war long past.

 

Bio:

Jason Andrew was born and raised on the coast of California where he spent his early years surfing and snowboarding while exploring the small coastal villages of Baja California. Upon graduating with a Bachelors Degree in History from San Diego State University, he began photographing for a small music label while teaching elementary school.

He later moved to NYC where he graduated from the 2006/07 Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography where he interned with VII photographer James Nachtwey.

In 2008, he attended the Eddie Adams Workshop and his Jazzland series about an abandoned amusement park in New Orleans was selected for American Photography 24. In 2009, he was named a Magenta Emerging Photographer and is currently among the “Emerging Talents” of Reportage by Getty Images.

His clients and publications include AOL, Courrier International, Le Monde 2, National Geographic Books, New York Magazine, Transworld Surf and Ventiquattro.

 

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Editor’s Note: Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

44 Responses to “jason andrew – twilight country”


  • A pleasure…I found myself nodding in agreement and saying out loud, yeah, yeah..

    I feel like there are 3 perspectives happening here, not that they can’t all live together in harmony, but I favor the voice of 5,8,9. But 4 knocks the ball out of the yard for me as a single..

  • very sensitive approach. Congratulations Jason

  • Thanks for the early comments.

    Erica, Interesting comment about #4 because I always struggled with accepting that image.

  • love the geometry
    in your work…
    and
    your
    use of
    lines..
    and
    angles…..
    ‘a poetic
    sense
    of
    light
    and
    color…’
    oh yes……
    **
    are you familiar with the aftermath project by sara terry?
    **

  • Wendy,

    I am familiar and a working on my application for it right now but struggling a bit with the writing as usual.

  • I wanted to like this. It’s in color, in focus, some interesting photos. But it just doesn’t say anything to me.

    “The Images take us on a sinister, eerie tour of a country whose only existence centers around their military and patriotism.”

    Certainly they don’t seem sinister to me at all. I think the photographer’s emotional reaction to standing in those places with those people isn’t being conveyed through the photos.

  • Jim, I think I agree with you here.
    Although this is a very interesting story, It feels almost like it’s something right out of our own backyard. It doesn’t really speak much about the struggle, but more about a parade for independence. A lot of this scenery and people look like they could be plucked out of north eastern Wisconsin, Only the story here is a bit different.

    I think a longer more in depth essay could be done to really introduce the country to the west. I think there are other locations that probably tell more?

  • I love this. 9 made me chuckle. 7,8,15 and 17 are surreal.

    Great work.

  • I love the blending of content here. To me, something out of our backyard is a good thing. We’re all similar as humans in many ways aren’t we? I won’t argue that there are probably more photos to be had, but I like the subdued approach here. I feel more included than alienated.

  • I like the subject and I think some of the snaps have some sort of poetic melancholyt. The photos number 1,17 mainly, they seem to me like old black and white pictures that have been coloured, like a beginning of 20th century sort of style, and it macthes really good with the decadence of the place, I love that touch. For the rest of it I would say that appears to me a very “distanced”, there is a lack of emotional implication, it looks pretty “cold”, It doesnt evoke to me any particular feeling that author mentioned.

  • I question the statement that the ‘country’s only existence centers around their military and patriotism’, and the statement that, ‘Abkhazia remains desolate and wounded, a dilapidated corpse left for dead. Only the internal sense of pride and joy can be seen through the military, their beacon of light and pride’. These sentences are worded as if they are solid facts, yet, from a set of photos taken over a period of just two weeks, it really doesn’t seem as though you’ve spent enough time interacting with these people to be able to make such definitive statements. The military parade and its preparation was obviously so prominent an event during your stay that it has become the basis of a rather limited analysis. Of course, the war, the standing of the military and patriotism are important considerations, but surely not the only ones? What of the very real and very important facts that these people view themselves as being culturally distinct from Georgians and also have their own language? How do they fit in to this? Are they as depressed and miserable as you describe their country to be in your foreword?

    After viewing the essay a number of times, all I felt that I was seeing was an outsider’s view of a complex situation, focused on an annual parade, that told me very little about the actual people involved, even though the essay was very people-centric. I can’t help but get the impression that an Abkhazian viewing this essay and reading the introduction would not be happy with this representation of their country.

    I would say that given a longer timeframe and more attention to the lives of the individuals, this could be much improved, but as it stands, the conclusions of the statement seem far too definitive to carry much weight given the actual period of time covered by the photographs.

    Also, in the caption for the sixth photo, a portrait of Lenin has been incorrectly listed as being a portrait of Stalin – unless he’s hiding behind the tree!

  • I like this. Some knockout photos in there.

  • Really enjoy looking at your photos, Jason. I became a fan of Jazzland when I first saw it months ago. Can’t wait to see future projects.

  • This essay is stunning work… nice compositions, interesting subjects, good story.
    I enjoyed every frame… good job.

  • I see people here. People making do. I don’t know if it’s truly such a crumbling militaristic culture but this is what i see. People like people anywhere making do with what they have.
    I like the way you composed these images as well, they were interesting to look at in this respect as well.

  • I’m kinda agreeing with Jim here. I want to like this stuff, and I do like many of the individual shots. The shooting syle I like. Simple, clean, well crafted. Good stuff.
    We are getting in trouble here with text again. The photographs do not seem to illustrate what the text suggests.

  • Dead…
    no feelings.. no emotions..
    but dont give up…
    call NatGeo…
    they’ll buy it…
    :))))))))

  • Some cruel irony in Russia backing regions who claim/wish independance, when it crushed Chechnya in one of the bloodiest repressions since Stalin….

    Not overwhelmed by the photography here, and no real dislike either, some good shots for sure, and yes, Gordon is right, the images are again in some kind of ether quite foreign to the text (please, please, anyone, just write 3 lines, where, when, what, and let your pictures do the rest).

    Definite lack of depth in your reach, which depending on the stance you favor, approaching an event or people, can be a valid approach. For ex: if you were wishing to use a certain irony in seeing a generic situation in so many satellites of the old USSR, even call the country a fictitious name, that sort of thing…

    But I think you want us to look at these people as a distinct culture still fighting to be respected as such, and even as a nation. None of your images can lead us to identify that culture or understand its avowed difference with the one(s) it wishes to escape from or stay autonomous.

  • You’ve come a long way from SDSU! :))
    I still live in North County…Carlsbad.

    Keep at it.

  • 12 and 13 really hit it for me. I felt that the approach was more subdued, even hopeful at times, but I never felt the eerie or sinister vibe while viewing this. Some really lovely compositions here…although on 5 I really wanted to see the rest of his reflection and number 4 I like, but wonder what it would look like from a straight on perspective, with the horizon line still the top of the train and straight across the frame, but the guys directly in front of it with the interesting geometry of the power lines above. Then the triangle of pavement to the lower left would be gone and we would have a more intimate feel for their relationships…or I would hope. This frame feels like it could be very “Stand By Me,” and therefore in my eyes, hopeful. I think this is reflective of the view of the photographer and that maybe what Jason is trying to show us is that among people and their trek forward lies hope and strength. I sure hope so…cuz that’ what’s gotten all of us this far, whether that place is good, bad, or ugly. There’s always light to lead us in the direction of hope…sometimes we just have to search longer or harder to find it.

  • On the surface all places have sort of detached appeal about them but that is more about us than the place. Then we have a choice we can either dive in and enjoy in or stay on the outer boundaries and watch.

  • Number 4 is my favorite as well…

  • Very nice, someone of them are great. I love the ones with the woman legs… funny

  • This essay speaks deeply to me. I am transported by it to Abkhazia and feel it’s heartbeat in my soul. I tried to do the same type of reportage with my Czechoslovakia in Transition work and therefore know how hard it is to get the essence of a place. You succeeded fully, to me. Thank you!

  • Quite impressive author’s biography, not so much this essay. Average pictures that have a bit of pro-russian flavor.

  • I agree with Jason_Houge – the “decaying skeleton” is more of a standard issue run-down industrial area in any major US city. Just because it’s halfway around the world doesn’t make it more compelling.

    And ascribing a “poetic sense of light and color” to these images is a stretch, in my view.

    Unfortunately, this project falls into the very overworked category of “foreign country suffering terribly” that is wearing thin on many, myself included.

    Nonetheless, hard work that results in recognition and delivery of a message has some intrinsic value, and I give Mr. Andrew credit for that.

  • In statements about your work, I think its a big mistake to tell your audience what they will think and feel. You can’t assume we will see your pictures the same way you do. Don’t forget we weren’t in Abkhazia with you and most of us probably don’t have any memories of this place. Nor is it your role to interpret your own work in art statements. I think your statement undermines your project. I’d make it more simple, more honest. I like #9 and #17.

  • Thanks for all of the positive and negative feedback. It will only help me grow as a photographer and I agree a lot with your comments about the writing. It is something I have been struggling with in regards to this edit and something I will look further into this weekend. Keep it coming.

  • I didn’t read your statement, nor will I. I don’t read anything that comes with photos. Why should I. Photos that work don’t need words.

  • “Nor is it your role to interpret your own work in art statements.”

    Well, I don’t completely agree with this. I really believe it is the photographers role to interpret his work. Photographers need to spend much more time telling us about their photos. Few photos, especially in documentary work, really have the power to stand alone. If you don’t want to talk about each photo, at least talk about the photos in general, set the context. I’m thinking of the introductory material to each group of photos in DAH’s “Divided Soul” for example.

  • I’m thinking of the introductory material to each group of photos in DAH’s “Divided Soul” for example.
    —————–

    Which I still have to read…..

  • I like this material and it does REALLY work for me.

    What I always do with every new piece of work posted here, is take a look at it once, leave it rest for a few hours (or even a day), and then look at it another couple of times. It is only then, when I have digested the photos and formed my own opinion about the message I believe it conveys, that I read what the author has written about it. For me, reading it before or right after, biases my view on the essay…

    Well done and congratulations Jason

  • jason :)))

    first of all, i want to congratulate you on being published here. I have been a big fan of Jazzland and think that it is one of the most beautiful, most sad and ultimately most humanely redemptive of all the work to emerge in the aftermath of Katrina….and I am happy that now many who are unfamiliar with your magnificent essay are now more familiar with that work. There are many ways to reconcile and speak about grief and Jazzland, to me, is one of the most poignant, for amid all that space and spoil, amid all the emptyness, we are privy to both the joy and the devastation to the lives that were so profoundly torn by that devastation….

    as for this essay, I take a different tact. For many who are unfamiliar with Abkhazia, the essay may look and appear slim or slight. You are also brave, brave in the sense that you are directly photographing territory that has been so beautifully, poetically and profoundly photographed by Jonas. Which photographer, unfamiliar with Abkhazia, has not been moved by the boy leaping off the grounded boat into the sea, or the people sitting next to the stuffed bear, or the old grandmother (I believe her name was tanya) walking toward her war-torn building or the Pinkhassov-delerium of lights of the bathers….it’s tough photographic territory. I think your photographs are strong and reflect less about Abhhazian life or the people there then your reaction to the devastation and the strength and character of the people you met. For me, this alone is important. Abkhazia had a long and complex history prior to its war with Georgia (just as the entire Caucasus is an extraordinarily complex and entwined region), and any photographer who wishes to tell the story of that region, let alone Abkhazia, is treading on slippery ground. Though I read your statement after having looked at the essay 3 times yesterday, I have tried to separate it from the power and heart of your pictures.

    This essay is really more about you and your reaction to the place, a place torn by history and difficulty and hardhsip and within your pictures, I felt your appreciation and your feeling of the place. I think the essay has less to do with Abkhazia then it has to do with your reaction to both the ‘appearance’ of the places your visited and the stalwart appearance and lives. Within the pictures, i see the story that you are attempting to tell and the unstinting strength that you are trying to convey: one of admiration and forward looking dreams. I think, while the pictures and buildings and land are steeped in pain and desolation, your pictures attempt to honor the character of that area. Does it show the entire spectrum of the lives lived, the joy, the madness, the drunken reverlry, the celebration, the laughter? No, it does not, but I also understand that you only spent a few weeks there and any attempt to capture a place cannot be done without becoming a part of a place, being injected by that place. However, what does lay inside the photographs (forgetting the statement) is a simpler strength:

    that the photographs are attempt to show the paradoxical relationship between the pagentry of design (military, parade, geometry) and the more human frailty and aspiration (the swimming, the fishing, the park bench stories) and it is that which speaks to me……

    we place much much too much importance on the shoulders of photographers (mostly because many photographers have becried their own self-importance), and I think it is all too unfortunate. For these are strong pictures, pictures that tell one story, one of many, that also reflect truthfully one part of a story, not the entire story, not all the connections, but does tell one story, which is this:

    a young man visited an old and stalwart land and wished to show what that land and people seeded in him….

    is this work so much about the nation and people of Abkhazia? or about the photographers reaction to this place?….For me, it is just as legitimate and just as strong to depict one’s own reaction to a place, if even just a sliver of that place, for it begins a conversation….begins a reckoning….begins a connection….

    strong, thoughtful and (in the more loose pictures) open reaction….

    I cant wait to see what you do when you’ve spent more time there, because it is clear you are a thoughtful and sensitive photographer….and in that, begins something else…

    cheers
    bob

  • Fantastic photos. Can’t comment on whether they reflect the reality of those living there but I thoroughly enjoyed watching the whole essay.

    Congratulations,

    Frank

  • This is to me one of the best work I have seen in Burn Magazine.

    Andrew you have a beautiful eye and strong feelings toward the subject of your research.
    Your pictures are stunning and romantic, without this meaning they’re “soft”. Quite the contrary, you reveal strong images and a harsh reality, with depth and understanding of the circumstances.

    This is really an amazing work. OUTSTANDING!!!

    Thank you very much
    Mimi

  • Jim I think we mean something different by “interpret”.

  • First, I must thank David for publishing this work on BURN. Without this wonderful platform for young photographers, I may have never had the opportunity to see this project published. It has been an absolute pleasure to return to the forum and read everyones comments, further emphasizing the wonderful community David has created here.

    To Everyone with their kind words I must thank you for your amazing inspiration and thoughtfulness with a project I have struggled with and one that I continue to struggle to fund so i can return and continue the work I began. It is difficult for me to thank everyone individually on here but know that if any of you are in NYC, I would love to get together and grab a beer one evening.

    And to a comment Bob made,

    ” that the photographs are attempt to show the paradoxical relationship between the pagentry of design (military, parade, geometry) and the more human frailty and aspiration (the swimming, the fishing, the park bench stories) and it is that which speaks to me……”

    This nails the project on the head and thank you for your wonderfully written words of inspiration.

  • I find this essay half hearted, but it might be because of Bendiksen’s wonderful work in Satellites.

  • In one way these enviroments look so beautiful through these phtographs that I don’t feel bad about the people who live there at all. But I think you managed to show “the pride and joy through the military”, maybe it would be better to just focus on that..?

    I think you should deeply consider dropping #14, you already have train tracks in #4.

  • Jason,
    Absolutely beautiful.
    Not a perfect essay, but a perfect start.
    An inspiration.
    -K

  • there’s some work on abkhazia on this chap’s website:

    http://www.jamespomerantz.com/

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