Tag Archive: jason eskenazi


Jason Eskenazi’s Latest Project: “The Black Garden”

Jason Eskenazi, author of one of my (and many other peoples’) favorite photography books of all time Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith, is working on a new project and is asking for our support via Kickstarter. As usual there are a number of rewards for helping to fund the project, including signed copies of the hard-to-find Wonderland at the $100 level.



I want to understand the contemporary dilemmas of our civilization by seeking modern equivalents to the East/West dichotomy. From the mythic Trojan War, to the split of the Roman Empire, to Islamic control over Western Europe, to today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the revolutions in Egypt and Libya, human history has been plagued by successive waves of both territorial and cultural conquest across the Eurasian divide over the course of 3000 years. This ancient world spanned the same locales where many of the world’s crises are now taking place.

I will do this by creating a companion to my published book Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith (recently reviewed on National Public Radio and winner of Best Photography Book by POYi) where I interpreted the former Soviet Union as a story about childhood maturation – from childhood fairy tales to adult mythology. And like mythology, this new story, The Black Garden, centers on the nature of duality. Does it arise from out of our imagination or does it have a physical geographical basis? I will investigate the influence of ancient Greek ideals and myths, as well as eastern views, in our modern time by photographing today’s current events within our the vast geographical and mythical world known to ancient Greece: from Southern Italy to the Indus River in India in order to see contemporary dilemmas within a historical, journalistic, and artistic light.

Eskenazi has a great proposal (I think we could even study it as a good example of how to write our own) and already has an interesting set of photographs (and a book dummy) to kick this off. I hope it reaches full funding and that we can all see the results of the new project soon. I’m looking forward to having the new book on my shelf.

SW!PE Magazine

SW!PE Magazine is created by and features the work of former and active guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Favorite Jason Eskenazi is one of the founders of the project and gives word that The New York Times has published an article about the magazine’s first issue and opening exhibition. Check out the article for more background and a nice gallery of various works that are featured in the magazine. You can buy a copy of the first issue “Guards’ Matter”, which sold out at the opening, through their website.

“In September, the Robert Frank photography exhibit “The Americans” came to the museum and Mr. Eskenazi requested a transfer to its gallery. “Being inside that maze of photos was like a meditation,” he said, adding “but a torture knowing that I should not be here guarding art but making it. ” In November, he left to concentrate on his art.”

Another great example of artists (and workers, as they point out) taking matters in to their own hands and getting their work out there and in the form they want. Congrats to everyone involved in this project, I hope to see a copy of the magazine sometime soon.

And speaking of Eskenazi you should have a look at this gallery of his work and writing at globalpost.com if you haven’t already.

Must Read: Conversation with Jason Eskenazi

“A Photo Student” James Pomerantz sits down with perennial Dvafoto favorite and inspiration Jason Eskenazi. Probably the best overview of his career and life I have come across outside of conversations with the man himself. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thanks Jason and James for putting this out there!

Copies of his book Wonderland are still for sale direct from Eskenazi. Must have.

Wonderland back in print!

Jason Eskenazi - Wonderland

Jason Eskenazi - Wonderland

Reason to rejoice: Jason Eskenazi‘s (previously) excellent book, Wonderland, is back in print, thanks to Red Hook Editions. 2008 POYi Best Photo Book, Wonderland explores Russia and the history of the Soviet Union as a fairytale, and is filled with many, many classic images. From the book summary:

For many, the Soviet Union existed, like their childhood, as a fairy tale where many of the realities of life were hidden from plain view. When the Berlin Wall finally fell so too did the illusion of that utopia. But time changes memory. The ex-Soviets confused the memory of their innocent youth for their nation’s utopian vision, unable to confront its history and thus creating nostalgia for tragedy. This book tries to seek and portray the socialist dream, the nightmare of the USSR beneath the veneer and the reality that emerged after the fall. And like all fairy tales try to teach us: the hard lessons of self-reliance. -Wonderland

update by Scott: Just bought myself a copy. Excited to see it when I’m back in Montana sometime in the next year.

Jason Eskenazi and Robert Frank at the Met

Studio 360 interviewed Dva favorite and friend Jason Eskenazi about his life as a Metropolitan Museum of Art security guard and his relationship to the art all around him. It culminates in his experiences with the brilliant exhibition Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans (which is on view through January 3rd, and which I get to see in a couple days!).

Jason Eskenazi chasing Obama before the inauguration in Edgewood, Maryland. 2009

Jason Eskenazi chasing Obama before the inauguration in Edgewood, Maryland. 2009


You’ve got to listen, only 5 and a half minutes. Beautiful.
And he alludes to new work coming, cannot wait.

(h/t Tom Leininger)

Interview: Jason Eskenazi talks to Habitus Magazine

Jason Eskenazi talks about Wonderland and Title Nation from Habitus A Diaspora Journal on Vimeo.

Thanks to Habitus Magazine for pointing us to their interview with Jason Eskenazi, whose book “Wonderland” (1 used at Amazon for $656.00!) you should know. In the video, Eskenazi discusses the narrative structure of Wonderland, the nature of being a photographer, finding pictures in Grozny, and collaborating with Valerii Nistratov for the portraits in “Title Nation.” The video was produced as part of HabitusMoscow issue.

I Love New York

Sorry for the lack of posting on my end, especially of things that aren’t all about me, I’ve been a bit busy on the road. I’m still in New York City, trying to stay warm and get through the gauntlet of editor meetings, and will head out for Belgrade on 2/4. I’ve had a tremendous time here so far, and am giddy to be able to hit up all my favorite restaurants, bars and bookstores. I love this city so much.
Today, for example, I had a meeting in midtown where I was treated to a good conversation and great feedback on my work all the while with a wonderful 27th-floor Manhattan view, then I headed downtown and had some Shanghai Soup Dumplings in Chinatown, a food I’ve been wanting to try for months, then off for a walk through Tribeca to my friend Alan Chin’s exhibition at Sasha Wolf Gallery, then walked up town a bit to make my pilgrimage to Dashwood Books. Where else can you do all of this in a couple of hours?

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This is just one afternoon, since I’ve been back in the city since the Inauguration (gallery now on my website) I’ve also had the fortune to see the wonderful William Eggleston retrospective at the Whitney Museum, and it was really beautiful and engaging. (And a great compliment to the Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition which I saw in DC). On Monday I also (accidentally) found myself in the middle of the Chinese New Years celebrations in Chinatown, and those are the pictures illustrating this post. I’m sure M. Scott will post some of his (wholly cooler) pictures soon.
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So like I said the main reason I’m here in New York is to make connections with editors, publications and other photographers. So far, this has been a great experience and have learned a lot (about my work, about the ‘industry’), and I think it will lead to work and opportunities soon. The biggest stress has come, not surprisingly, from the production of my print portfolio. Between making one edit, getting prints made, finding out they looked like crap, then having another meeting with Alan Chin and the amazing Jason Eskenazi who encouraged me to reedit things in some drastic ways, then having the new prints take forever (and missing my complete book for my first two meetings). I am very proud of the result, I think this is my most personal portfolio to date (it includes more of ‘my’ pictures than edits for other people). As you can see below, I have come to 20 pictures from my Kosovo stories and 10 from I See A Darkness, and I am bringing along my laptop to show a slideshow of my Inauguration pictures. It was a tough decision, to leave out my Homeless in Seattle story and any singles or recent work (it was tough to leave out pictures like this). On one hand this features some of my strongest work that is related to my ‘pitch’ about living in this region, on the other it doesn’t speak to the diversity in my larger portfolio. This became an issue today when an editor thought my work was lacking a strong story; she liked I was trying to find a way to illustrate a ‘big idea’ (of ‘New York’, or ‘Kosovo’) but wanted to see me tackle a more singular issue. Absolutely this is something I need to focus on, but other pictures or stories would have shown my work on this kind of piece. Ultimately, there is no way to please everyone and yourself at the same time or to cover all possible bases. When I said this was a learning process for me, this is at the heart of it.


I mentioned that I made my trip to photo book mecca Dashwood Books and I wanted to report back on some of the wonderful things I found there. I was ecstatic to find a number of books that I have been waiting for (and searching for at all lesser bookstores), including my first encounter with an Antoine D’Agata book (Situations), Eugene Richards’ The Blue Room (which I thought was beautifully sparse and an incredible, post-silent-apocalypse vision of America. Remarkable that these pictures are from this photographer, I think it speaks a lot to his soul. M Scott wrote about this book on dva a few months ago too). I also got to see Boogie’s two new books, Belgrade Belongs To Me and Sao Paolo. His Belgrade work, as I wrote here before with mini-interview and with my big book wish-list, is my favorite work from him… great to see an ‘exile/refugee’ photographer returning home (I’m thinking Antonin Kratochvil and Josef Koudelka especially, who both happen to be from Czechoslovakia. This would be a great post … Hope I remember to write it). Great surprises too were Beaufort West by Mikhail Subotzky, which was fantastic, and last year’s European Publishers Award winning book I, Tokyo by the Danish photographer Jacob Aue Sobel, who I met in Oslo last year and was very excited to see his new work in finished form. Incredible, visceral work (like usual for him) that draws immediate connections to the iconic Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, who happens to be a specialty of Dashwood. They even had a wonderful new, rare edition called Hokkaido. Finally, I was able to reconnect with a very important and influential book for me, Gilles Peress’ terrible masterpiece Farewell to Bosnia. As I wrote awhile ago the title alone says so much about Peress and his understanding of Bosnia: the dream of a multi-ethnic and tolerant state evaporated with the war, and his work there is evidence of this disintegration.

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Now I’m off to that cauldron to see where things have progressed and what remains in ten years of post-war reconstruction. I will, if you have patience, continue to update my story here; and I promise to finally get to that ‘explaining what the heck I’m doing’ post soon. I think it would be helpful, because I have to explain the story ten times a day to friends and editors who are rather befuddled when I tell them I’m moving to Belgrade indefinitely :) Before then though I have a few more meetings and hope to make it to a couple of more exhibitions (if you’re reading this and have suggestions, please send them my way!) including maybe the opening of the latest Hey Hot Shot! edition that features friend and Dva-interviewee Donald Weber. That, and trying to repack all of my stuff into my few bags. Too many books, I just couldn’t cut back. The only thing keeping me from going even further overboard, what with the deals at Strand, is the painful memory of hauling this stuff from JFK to the Upper West Side and the muscle memory that I’ll have to do it again real soon. Think I’ve got to get to Chinatown for a massage…

Some things I’ve been looking at

Been in a little funk over the weekend after hearing that I didn’t get an important grant from my university that was to fund my Russia story.. there are other paths and I’m pursuing them vigorously but this was a bummer. Spent much of the last few days reading, looking, listening and thinking and, since I haven’t come up with a big post to write from any of them, I’ll have to dump on you another massive link roundup. Lots of interesting things and terrific photographs, hope something suits your fancy if you’re looking for a little education or entertainment.

I’ve had a borrowed copy of Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde on my desk for a few weeks and I just found time to read through. Fucking brilliant, and utterly heartbreaking. If you’re not familiar, it is a illustrated piece of journalism .. war journalism in ‘comic book’ form. Brought me right back to all of the people I know and the things I’ve seen in Bosnia .. Gilles Peress had it right, first, with the sentiment behind his book “Farewell to Bosnia”. Gone, gone was the idea of a true multi-ethnic Bosnia. And this isn’t something that has gone away, warns Richard Holbrooke in the Guardian. I’ll be delving into this deeply when I’m back over there.. (also, reading this inspired me to go find my copy of Eugene Richard’s The Fat Baby.. which has a story I haven’t seen anywhere else about his trip to a Serb war hospital in Bosnia in 1995.. if you have the book go look and read.)

Got up this yesterday morning and found a particularly interesting post by Kevin German on his blog Wandering Light, featuring a new body of work he is starting on mental illness in Vietnam. I think it is a tremendous start of a story with beautiful photographs .. well worth a look. Very interesting timing, too, as I saw Friday for the first time Eugene Richards’ new book A Procession of Them at the bookstore. An important topic and I admire these photographers for pursuing this difficult story .. I spent an hour in an institution in Kosovo this past June (one that Richards covered much better in his own book) and it was a draining situation.. hats off to these men.
(c) Kevin German(c) Kevin German

I know that at least a few of you out there are interested in the Balkans like me, and I’ve got to recommend a story in Vanity Fair about Ramush Haradinaj, “House of War”. A remarkably well done piece about this man, who is a former KLA general and PM of Kosovo and an acquitted war criminal. Plenty of background about the war in the West of Kosovo too.

I’ve mentioned Jason Eskenazi and his new book Wonderland a couple of times now (1, 2), and last week NPR published an interview with him, and you can listen online. Eugene Richards even pops up to give some nice commentary. Seems like everyone is noticing and writing about this book these days, also see the write-up on The Fader’s website.

Here is an interesting (if slightly formulaic) article from the Washington Post (signin might be required .. try bugmenot.com if you need one) about Barack Obama’s transition from ‘normal guy’ to President. “Much to His Chagrin, ‘Plain Old Barack Is Gone’”. Odd picture of a scary secret service guy, but otherwise I enjoyed this peek into the transition.

Michael Rakowitz's ParaSite

Michael Rakowitz's ParaSite


From the wonderful Wooster Collective blog: Old photo-street art, and Michael Rakowitz’s ParaSites, inflatable shelters for the homeless, and an example (with Gaia) of Wooster’s revived and terrific “The A’s to our Q’s” series. Beyond cool art, they’re great little interviews .. inspiration for our series here on Dva too.

I have no idea what kind of reputation the magazine MONOCLE has, I only ran into it while traveling through Heathrow some months ago. Beyond way too expensive items recommended, there is a terrific design and feel to the mag. I’m curious to know more about it.. (chime in please if you know something). On their website I just saw a nifty little video-story about “New designs on diplomacy”, the process behind designing new embassies (in this case UK and Norway) in stressed locales. Quite interesting.

For anyone out there who is still wanting to wallow in the Digital Railroad mess, here is a lengthy piece (which I admit I haven’t read completely) by Photoshelter CEO Allen Murabayashi: “What Happened to Digital Railroad?”.

I can’t remember where I first saw G.M.B. Akash’s work from Bangladesh, but I was reminded again when he wrote on Lighstalkers that he won the 2008 Kindernothilfe Media Award in Germany for a story on Child Labor. See the story, which includes this World Press winning picture, on his website.

(c) G.M.B. Akash

(c) G.M.B. Akash

11th Annual Postcards From the Edge: A Benefit for Visual AIDS seems like a very interesting opportunity to donate a small piece of work for a good cause. Check it out.

More music (video): “Create Your Own Rainbow”, a chance to mix your own version of Radiohead’s “15 Step” off of In Rainbows via a crazy interface and 12 camera angles. I don’t have enough bandwidth where I’m at, apparently, to make it run smoothly but maybe you’ll have more luck.

Lastly, Colberg at Conscientious writes On photography collectives. In short, he is ‘pro’ photographers working together and can’t figure out why there aren’t more :) Congrats again to Luceo for being ahead of the curve.

We’re working a lot of interesting things for the coming weeks, some more interviews and I’ll have more to chat about my near-term plans for a marketing trip to New York and the move to Belgrade. Stay tuned!

Patients at a controversial, multi-racial Mental Hospital in Shtime, Kosovo. Though there are more than 40 patients at the facility there are huge budget problems and no on-site psychiatrists. (c) Matt Lutton, 2008

Patients at a controversial, multi-racial Mental Hospital in Shtime, Kosovo. Though there are more than 40 patients at the facility there are huge budget problems and no on-site psychiatrists. (c) Matt Lutton, 2008

To Do NYC: 11/13 Eskenazi’s Wonderland at Leica Gallery

Jason Eskenazi - Wonderland

Jason Eskenazi - Wonderland

Taking a page from WTJ I want to suggest that our New York readers, or those people who will be in town November 13 (through January 10, 2009), to check out the opening reception of Jason Eskenazi’s WONDERLAND at the Leica Gallery. I previously wrote about this book, and sadly have yet to find a copy for myself, but this seems like a great chance to see the work and don’t just take it from me: go read Bob Black gushing. Check that link too for all the details. (One editorial note: the Leica Gallery website has a different exhibition listed for this same period but I imagine there has been some reshuffling and that Bob has given us the correct info)