“It was a few years later, with the country removed from the limelight and forgotten, that I visited Kyrgyzstan for the first time. I set out to discover what the tulip “revolution”, which was supposed to have led to a “democratic transition in the country”, had really accomplished. This so-called revolution seemed to have been no more than a power grab. The elections were still rigged, some media were censured, political opponents were being arrested and Kyrgyzstan was considered one of the 15 most corrupt countries in the world. Even today, 40% of the population live below the poverty line and many look back to the Soviet era with nostalgia. Today people speaks of the tulip revolution as a coup d’etat disguised as a popular revolution.” -William Daniels, from the artist statement for ‘Faded Tulips: Kyrgyzstan, fragile democracy‘
William Daniels‘ photo essay, Faded Tulips, is a beautiful and nuanced look into Kyrgyzstan investigating the aftermath of the so-called “Tulip Revolution.” The pictures address the politics and the economy–there are images political demonstrations and mines, factories and internal migrants–but the essay also has room for a dreamy snowy apartment scene or a drunken apartment get-together, remembrances of life as it was lived before and after and likely long into the future of Kyrgyzstan. And that’s what makes this work important…if the public knows of the country, their ideas are probably limited to a few scenes of demonstrations and violence from a few years ago. The country’s trajectory after the Tulip Revolution is a fascinating one, but rarely, rarely reported. Daniels’ work here humanizes the country in a way informed by, but not dominated by, political and economic stresses. Take a while and look through this essay and the rest of William Daniels‘ work.