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we tell stories


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we tell stories


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Sophia


© Giulio Di Sturco

Sophia


© Giulio Di Sturco

SingularityNet is currently working on creating an open source decentralized AI platform running on the blockchain. This network of AIs will provide AI as a service in an unprecedentedly diverse and open way. As well as a superior practical service, the SingularityNet will serve as a platform for the self-organization and emergence of increasing levels of Artificial General Intelligence, via the collaborative activity of the AI developer and user communities and the AIs they build and use.

The company is led by Dr. Ben Goertzel, renowned as the father of Artificial General Intelligence, the leader of the OpenCog AGI project and the organizer of the prestigious annual AGI conference series.

We can imagine SingularityNET being a sort of an “AI app store” where apps can not only serve users’ needs, but invoke each other’s help to complete their tasks or projects.  

The first complex AI system to be realized on the SingularityNET will be an AI brain for Sophia Hanson — the most sophisticated humanoid robot ever built. The new version of Sophia’s mind, currently under development by SingularityNET in conjunction with Hong Kong firm Hanson Robotics, will be a core node of the blockchain. Her intelligence will be plugged in the network for everyone’s benefit and will also receive input and wisdom from everyone's algorithms.  Sophia’s mind will be constantly fed with new content from SingularityNET, while at the same time helping to power the network with its human-like intelligence.

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Saudi Arabia granted the status of Citizen to Sophia, that became the first robot to be recognized as a citizen.

 

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Brave New Turkey


© Norman Behrendt

Brave New Turkey


© Norman Behrendt

Greetings from Turkey  11 x 13.6 cm 2 different covers 17 postcards on grooved printed sheets English July 2017 Hartmann Projects ISBN 978-3-96070-013-5

Greetings from Turkey 
11 x 13.6 cm
2 different covers
17 postcards on grooved printed sheets
English
July 2017
Hartmann Projects
ISBN 978-3-96070-013-5

Brave New Turkey is based on a conceptual approach to documenting newly built mosques in a Neo-Ottoman-Style in the urban landscape of Ankara and Istanbul.

Since 2015, Norman Behrendt has regularly travelled to Turkey and visited the sprawling suburban districts of both cities. These rapidly built, endless suburban high-rise developments are a manifestation of Turkey’s economic boom. Along with massive housing construction has come a second massive construction project: mosques. Behrendt’s work reflects this phenomenon as a symbol of change and power that reaches beyond national borders.

Çiğdem Mosque, in construction, Keçiören, Ankara, 2017

Çiğdem Mosque, in construction, Keçiören, Ankara, 2017

Returning Turkey to the glories and origins of its Ottoman past and ending Atatürk’s secular constitution has been one of the primary goals of Recep Erdoğan throughout his long rule of Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and now as president with growing executive powers. Thanks to the country’s recent economic boom, the AKP, Erdoğan’s party, has improved healthcare, urban infrastructure and prosperity, but on the other hand has also made control of religious affairs a priority. The Diyanet (Directorate for Religious Affairs) fulfills this role and helps to legitimize the religious backswing of Turkey. In less than a decade, its budget has quadrupled to over $2 billion per year, and it employs over 120,000 people, making it one of Turkey’s largest institutions — bigger than the Ministry of Interior.

In recent years the Diyanet has become a political instrument for the government to reshape Turkey and intensify control over the people. The Diyanet is the main investor for thousands of the newly built mosques in Turkey and abroad. As most of them are built in a Neo-Ottoman style with their distinctive domes and minarets, they follow precisely the architectural tradition of Mimar Sinan (1490 - 1588), the master of classical Ottoman architecture. Since 1987, the number of mosques in Turkey has grown from 60,000 to more than 85,000 in 2013, an increase of almost 1,000 mosques per annum.

The newly constructed mosques attest the evident political influence on urban planning, but more importantly on Turkish society. Brave New Turkey is less about architecture in a classical sense, but rather how architecture reflects power and how ideologies are manifested in it. It reflects a newly tied compound of religious and cultural identity, against the backdrop of a constant exclusion of minorities, a reckless fight against those whose convictions are different and an unresolved question of what is Turkish identity?

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Proving Ground


© David Maisel

Proving Ground


© David Maisel

For more than three decades, Maisel's work has considered how human-made spaces are politicized and transformed through processes of industrialization, geo-engineering, and militarization. Proving Ground is a photographic investigation utilizing documentation, abstraction, and time-based media of the classified military landscape of Dugway Proving Ground. 

In 2003, while making aerial photographs around Utah’s Great Salt Lake as part of his Terminal Mirage series, he encountered a site in the Tooele Valley, near the western slope of the Oquirrh Mountains. Positioned along the desert floor in uniform rows were hundreds of small buildings. What Maisel eventually learned about this gridded array was extraordinary — the buildings comprise the Tooele Army Depot, and they hold thirty million pounds of ageing chemical weapons, including mustard gas and nerve agents such as sarin and tabun.

Learning about the transformation of the region’s landscape into a repository of weapons of mass destruction triggered many questions. And those questions—pertaining to issues of chemical and biological weapons, land use in the American West, how space becomes militarized and politicized, the ways in which such sites are made off-limits, and thereby invisible—led directly to Dugway Proving Ground, some 45 miles southwest of Tooele.

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Since its inception in 1942, Dugway has been devoted to the development and testing of chemical and biological weapons and defense programs. It is a site of dark creativity, used by the military to design the shape of conflicts and wars to come. Dugway’s isolated setting in Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert, in tandem with its scale of some 800,000 acres (larger than the state of Rhode Island), make it particularly suited to working with virulent substances like anthrax, sarin, plague, the botulinum toxin, and other chemical and biological agents. Despite its massive size, Dugway remains nearly invisible: not only is it located, by necessity, in an extremely remote area, but it is rarely discussed in the media and is almost entirely closed to civilian visitors. On aeronautical charts, the militarized airspace of Dugway is labeled “Restricted R-6402 A” and pilots are cautioned of “Special Military Activity.” Despite these obstacles to access, upon learning of its existence and its mission, I became captivated by the idea of making photographs there.

In 2004, Maisel's initial request to the Pentagon for permission to photograph Dugway was denied. In 2013, he met Richard Danzig, a former Secretary of Navy and chairman of the Center for a New American Security, a think tank focused on national security issues. Maisel presented him with a copy of his book, Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, and described his interest in looking at Dugway in similar terms, as part of the evolution of the American West. Danzig introduced Maisel to James Petro, the Pentagon’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Chemical and Biological Defense. In 2014, with his support, David Maisel received permission from the Pentagon to make photographs at Dugway Proving Ground, provided he was “comfortable with a few requirements that they have to ensure everyone’s safety, security, and continued success of their ongoing activities.”

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Every site he has been permitted to photograph thus far at Dugway Proving Ground has been highly vetted by layers of military personnel, and Maisel is accompanied at all times by a military representative. However, he has also been granted an extraordinary degree of access to work in zones that are otherwise restricted from civilian view. Maisel began by photographing from the ground, focusing on structures related to the testing of chemical warfare dispersal patterns, as well as high-tech laboratories devoted to the detection and decontamination of chemical and biological toxins. More recently, he has shifted to an aerial perspective, making photographs of biological test grids and dispersal patterns inscribed directly into the raw desert floor. Looking down from above reveals colossal weapons testing sites that are carved into the land, nested circles and crosshatched grids, as though the abstract drawings of Agnes Martin or Sol Lewitt have been taken to a poisonous extreme. The gridded landscape becomes a measuring device against which dispersal rates, toxicity levels, and threats to the human body are measured. 

Proving Ground investigates the colonization, militarization, and mutation of the desert of the American West into a repository for toxic substances. Maisel wishes to question the ideological forces yielding these changes, and to underscore the need for greater understanding of how these transformations – both physical and political – occur. 

There is a myth of the American West that Proving Ground seeks to interrogate: the national frontier as a locus of the pure and the sublime, or as a setting for what the photographer Robert Adams has termed “a landscape of mistakes.” 

At the crux of Proving Ground lies the question of what we demand from the land of the American West. What needs does it fulfill, and to what has it been sacrificed? Dugway is a strangely compelling terra incognita that offers the opportunity to reflect on who and what we are collectively, as a society. In the more than thirty years that Maisel has made photographs of contested sites throughout this region, none has seemed to encapsulate the difficult and problematic realities of our present day as much as Dugway Proving Ground.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Korean Dream


© Filippo Venturi

Korean Dream


© Filippo Venturi

Between 1905 and 1945 Korea was dominated by the Japanese, thus becoming a colony of the Empire. In 1945, after Japan's defeat, Korea was involved in the Cold War and became an object of interest for the USA, the URSS and lately for China as well. This brought to the division of the country in two along the 38th parallel and to the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. On the 27th of July of 1953, an armistice was signed but a declaration of peace never followed, leaving the country in a permanent state of conflict.

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North Korea is officially a socialist State with formal elections but in fact, it is a totalitarian dictatorship based on the cult of the Kim dynasty, practically an absolute monarchy. Since 1948 the country was ruled by Kim Il-Sung, the “Great Leader”; in 1994 his son, Kim Jong-II the “Dear Leader” succeeded him and until in 2011 Kim Jong-Un, his son, the “Brilliant Comrade” became Supreme Leader.

North Korea is one of the most secluded countries in the world, we know little about it and the citizens' rights are subdued to the country's needs. Citizens have no freedom of speech, media are strictly controlled, you can travel only with authorization and it is not allowed to leave the country. The few foreign travellers who get the visa can travel the country only with authorized Korean guides, who have also the task of controlling, censoring and finding spies. 

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Pyongyang, the capital, is the centre of all the resources and the country's ambition to boast a strong and modern façade (the rest of North Korea is composed of countryside, rice-fields and villages usually with no water, electricity or gas).

The continuous and incessant propaganda against the US portraits the South Korean population as a victim of the American invasion; young generations live in a constant alert state as if the USA could attack any day. At the same time, the propaganda aims at instilling a great sense of pride for the country's technical progression, fueled by the Supreme Leader and culminating in the atomic bomb and the subsequent tests.

Pyongyang youngsters have been educated to be learned and knowledgeable people, especially in the scientific field, to foster the development of armaments and technology, chasing the dream of reuniting Korea in a whole and free state.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Purification in the Smoke Sauna


© Joakim Eskildsen

Purification in the Smoke Sauna


© Joakim Eskildsen

This work was commissioned by The New York Times Magazine and ran in The Voyages issue (Sept 2017)

This work was commissioned by The New York Times Magazine and ran in The Voyages issue (Sept 2017)

In the deciduous forests of southern Estonia, small cabins made of logs layered with moss dot the countryside. These are the smoke saunas — places to bathe bodies and cleanse spirits. The aromas of alder wood and stripped birch, burning below hot stones, waft through the air. Once the stones reach peak heat, the smoke is vented out with the help, it’s said, of a mythical “smoke eater.” Inside the cabin, a caretaker whisks visitors’ skin, delivering gentle beatings with a bouquet of leaves gathered, as at the sauna in Vorumaa at left, from the surrounding woods as the hot air alleviates the anxiety that comes with living in one of the world’s most technologically savvy populations. For three to five hours at a time, Estonians go back and forth from hot cabins to cold ponds nearby. Generations of Estonian families have marked the special occasions of life and death and healing in these small cottages and communal sweats — the oldest written references to the practice date back to at least the 13th century, and Unesco includes the tradition as a part of “the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” But the tradition is productive, too: It turns freshly slaughtered livestock and wildlife into smoked meat to be eaten for a post-sauna meal. In a smoke sauna, you are meant to breathe deeply, to relax, to feel the heat and then to plunge into the chill of the pond. Jaime Lowe

 

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Young, British & Muslim


© Alessia Gammarota

Young, British & Muslim


© Alessia Gammarota

In numerous cosmopolitan cities throughout the West, there is a younger generation of Muslim women have been recently more and more frequently choosing to express their identity and faith by wearing the hijab (the Islamic headscarf) and covered dresses. The veil is one of the most visible signs of Islam, and at the same time, one of the most contested. The generation who started proudly wearing it again consists of girls in their early twenties; young ladies brought up in the post 9/11 era, marked by accentuated public and media hostility towards women’s dressed bodies. Within Europe, this phenomenon is most visible in Great Britain, due to its multicultural character and lack of any formal regulation regarding openly religious attire. In order to fully understand the nature of this phenomenon, it is worth considering its various aspects.

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First of all, the majority of those girls were either born in the UK, or they spent most of their life there, and similarly to other British girls of that age, they shop mainly at H&M and Primark.  However, they don’t feel fully represented by mainstream fashion, nor they can fully identify with the outfits worn by their mothers, considering them too traditional. Each day they have to face the conflicting expectations of their parents, friends, Islamic community and general society. As a result, these girls become more articulated and self-conscious with regards to clothing and solving the issues it creates. They experiment with mainstream fashion in order to develop an individual style which corresponds to their complex backgrounds, interests and concerns, simultaneously challenging the negative stereotypes of Muslims. The platform that connects them and enables the evolution of this phenomenon is the internet. Thanks to numerous blogs, online shops, YouTube tutorials and Facebook pages, these girls get the chance to share opinions and tips on how to be fashionable and Islamic at the same time. The result is a variety of Muslim dressing styles visible in the streets of multicultural British cities: from the more traditional forms of body and face covering as the niqab, to the colorful combinations of headscarves paired with covered outfits, loose or fitted. Such experiments in style are signs of the birth of “modern western Islamic fashion”. It is a contribution to the general change within Muslim dressing practice in contemporary societies, and brings the debate into the Islamic community. At the same time, the phenomenon also attracts the attention of non-Muslim part of the society and triggers reflection on issues such as: immigration, multiculturalism and relationship between Islam and Western culture. One of the most interesting personalities representing the Islamic street style fashion are: the half-Egyptian and half-British vlogger Dina Tokio, with her heterogeneous followers on YouTube; and Sarah Elenany - fashion designer, who is known for creating UK scouts uniforms, suitable both for Muslim and non-Muslim girls.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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White Gold


© Luca Locatelli

White Gold


© Luca Locatelli

The Majestic Marble Quarries of Northern Italy 

Article by Sam Anderson

The story of Italian marble is the story of difficult motion: violent, geological, haunted by failure and ruin and lost fortunes, marred by severed fingers, crushed dreams, crushed men. Rarely has a material so inclined to stay put been wrenched so insistently out of place and carried so far from its source; every centimeter of its movement has had to be earned. “There is no avoiding the tyranny of weight,” the art historian William E. Wallace once put it. He was discussing the challenge, in Renaissance Italy, of installing Michelangelo’s roughly 17,000-pound statue of the biblical David. This was the final stage of an epic saga that, from mountain to piazza, actually began before Michelangelo’s birth and involved primitive and custom-engineered machinery and, above all, great sweating armies of groaning, straining men. But the tyranny of weight was in effect long before that, and long after, and it remains in effect today.

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What we admire as pristine white stone was born hundreds of millions of years ago in overwhelming darkness. Countless generations of tiny creatures lived, died and drifted slowly to the bottom of a primordial sea, where their bodies were slowly compressed by gravity, layer upon layer upon layer, tighter and tighter, until eventually they all congealed and petrified into the interlocking white crystals we know as marble. ‘‘Marmo,’’ the Italians call it — an oddly soft, round word for such a hard and heavy material. Some eons later, tectonic jostling raised a great spine of mountains in southern Europe. Up went the ancient sea floor, and the crystallized creatures went with it. In some places they rise more than 6,000 feet.

In Italy’s most marble-rich area, known as the Apuan Alps, the abundance is surreal. Sit on a beach in one of the nearby towns (Forte dei Marmi, Viareggio), and you appear to be looking up at snow-covered peaks. But it is snow that does not melt, that is not seasonal. Michelangelo sculpted most of his statues from this stone, and he was so obsessed with the region that he used to fantasize about carving an entire white mountain right where it stood. He later dismissed this, however, as temporary madness. ‘‘If I could have been sure of living four times longer than I have lived,’’ he wrote, ‘‘I would have taken it on.’’ Humans face limits that marble does not.

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Besides, carving Italian marble at its place of origin is precisely not the point. Its major value has always derived from its removal. Hundreds of quarries have operated in the Apuan Alps since the days of ancient Rome. (The Romans harvested the stone with such manic intensity that it became the architectural signature of the empire’s power; Augustus liked to boast that he inherited a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.) These quarries are far off of Italy’s most-traveled tourist routes, so few visitors see them; most of us know Italian marble mainly as an endpoint in the chain of consumption — not only Renaissance statues in major museums but also tombstones, bookends and kitchen countertops in American McMansions. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding reportedly featured, as an extra touch of conspicuous luxury, furniture made of Italian marble.

The quarries themselves, as these photos by Luca Locatelli attest, are their own isolated world: beautiful, bizarre and severe. It is a self-contained universe of white, simultaneously industrial and natural, where men with finger-nubs stand on scenic cliffs conducting tractors like symphony orchestras. Over the centuries, the strange geology of the marble mountains has produced an equally strange human community — strange even by the standards of Italy’s fractious regional subcultures. The people there live in white towns, breathing white dust, speaking their own dialects, nursing their own politics. There is a proud history, in and around Carrara, of anarchism and revolt.

Although the tools of extraction have changed over the centuries — oxen and chisels have given way to tractors and diamond-toothed saws — the fact remains: Large pieces of white stone, cut and hauled to distant places, function as a sign of wealth and power. Like gold, marble is a special form of embedded wealth, visually striking and deeply impractical. Follow Italy’s

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marble, and you follow the major movements of global wealth in human history, from ancient Rome to Victorian London to 20th-century New York. Today Italy’s marble tends to move farther than it did before — not just 200 miles to Rome or 700 miles to London but 3,000 miles to Abu Dhabi and 4,000 miles to Mumbai and 5,000 miles to Beijing. The centers of wealth have shifted, as they always will, and the marble follows, as it always has. The last decade has coincided with feverish marble-based construction, in particular, around Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, the Saudi Binladin Group, one of the region’s major construction firms, bought a large stake in one of Carrara’s largest quarries. The famous white stone is now used not in small batches for art but in bulk for huge building projects: mosques, palaces, malls, hotels.

How long can it hold out? Like North American timber or Antarctic ice, Italy’s marble is not an infinite resource. We will, eventually, reach the end of our ancient fund of calcified creatures, and the process that transformed them into stone is not likely to recur on any time scale we can imagine. These are cycles that outlast species. And although the white stone itself will almost certainly outlive its current quarriers, as it outlived the ancient Romans and Michelangelo, most of it will no longer be in the Apuan Alps: It will be scattered in this worldwide diaspora — in sinks, tiles, altars, skyscraper lobbies, busts.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive 

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The Thirst Of The Dragon


Images © Giulio Di Sturco
Text © Thomas Saintourens

The Thirst Of The Dragon


Images © Giulio Di Sturco
Text © Thomas Saintourens

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A procession of silhouettes in red capes slowly crosses the cobbled streets of the village of St-Emilion, on the rainy morning of Sunday, September 17, 2017. The new dignitaries of the "Jurade", the party celebrating each September the harvest, are inducted in the most prestigious brotherhood of the most famous vineyard in the world. Among these vine VIPs - winemakers, oenologists, merchants - a young Chinese, smiling to the ears, struggling to follow the procession as he snaps selfies with his golden iPhone. Cheng-Chang Lu, just 40 years old, president of Golden Field - more than 4,000 supermarkets in Asia and 30 million members of his online sales app - can not contain his ecstasy. "Today I enter the family of wine," says this businessman. Mister Lu made the calculations: "I will be able to sell a million bottles a year in my stores. Currently, there are too many taxes, too many intermediaries. So, owning Bel Air, I control the chain from A to Z. "This businessman attired in a three-piece suit is one of seven new Chinese dignitaries of the 2017 promotion of the Jurade of Saint-Emilion. It symbolizes these investors, both lovers of great wines and connected traders, who place their pawns around Bordeaux and transform the industry. Lu acquired Bel Air chateau in January 2017.Bel Air is on the list of some 150 vineyard properties in Bordeaux now under Chinese ownership. 

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The robot style portrait of the first Asian investors, landed only a decade ago, does not really stick to the pedigree of newcomers. The local winemakers remember, mocking but a little resigned too, pretentious billionaires mixing grand cru and coca-cola, Ferrari mired in the aisles of the vineyard squares, so many express bankruptcies. "By far, the vineyard looks sexy, but investing in wine is more complicated than expected," says Jean-Christophe Meyrou, Peter Kwok's right-hand man, the first Chinese (from Hong Kong) to have managed to build a small flourishing empire, around five properties (the "K" vineyards), including the Château Tour Saint Christophe, a grand cru of Saint-Emilion. "Those who last, like Mr. Kwok, are those who rely on quality, relying on the know-how of the locals. In this case, they can earn respect, and develop a profitable business. Where the pioneers, sometimes ill-advised, worked in the shadows, stirring suspicion and rumors, the new tycoons of the red are more readily displayed near their cellars, or even play the patrons in the city. Thus, on June 18, the sumptuous Grand Theater of Bordeaux had an exceptional evening, sponsored by James Zhou, owner of Château Renon, freshly restored at great expense. This "king of packaging", more used, during these European stops, to visit in Austria the headquarters of Red Bull, which he packs energy drinks, offered all Bordeaux a performance of the Russian virtuoso violinist Maxim Vengerov. Unthinkable two years ago.

Faced with declining domestic demand, it is clearly towards foreign markets, and Asian in particular, that turn Bordeaux producers. After opening the doors of multi-centennial properties to these rich people, and turning into simple consultants, in order to make the most of the taste and marketing of bottles that have become an extreme sign of wealth in the Far East, as well as a Cuban cigar or an Italian car. Michel Rolland, the star consulting oenologists, made a brief stop in his laboratory at the end of a rainy September. The man who advises seven Chinese owners, including Cofco, the world's largest food group, appreciates these new business partners: "The Chinese are not here only for the show, they are primarily traders. Quite omnipresent, sprawling, and with extraordinary punch. Their success is indisputable. In spite of distrust, the economic power allows this intrusion to be accepted. Michel Rolland is easily provocative: "In Bordeaux, we still have 6 million hectoliters to sell each year. We would like a vacuum cleaner that would pump to the Chinese market. Nobody would be against it.
It is no coincidence that, at the last edition of Vinexpo Bordeaux, the world's leading trade show, held in June 2017, a lucrative contract was signed with the online trading giant Alibaba, to sell a maximum of bottles on this platform to 450 million customers. Even less surprising knowing that the emblematic CEO of the brand, Jack Ma (39 billion personal fortune according to Forbes) has also three chateau's in the region since 2016. Like Mr Lu, he masters the entire chain, from producer to consumer. Historically very open to foreign capital (American, British and Belgian in particular), the Bordeaux vineyard finds in these partners who pay cash a way to settle the succession of family properties that struggle to be passed on to future generations. In the case of the Bel Air chateau in Cheng-Chang Lu, the former owner, Patrick David - who has been in charge for 26 years - was tempted by the offer, without negotiating the price, since none of his three girls did not want to take over the business. The astute Chinese immediately hired the one he had just dispossessed of his home for a two-year contract, to facilitate the transition: it is now with a flock jacket with the logo of Golden Field that the neo-retired Bordelais oversees the first harvest destined, for the most part, to Asian supermarkets.

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If the Chinese have not yet taken the most prestigious grands crus classés, it's only a matter of time, according to industry observers. And the suitors hurry to the door. No less than 200 potential buyers are in the address book of Li Lijuan's smartphone, aka "Lily", a key figure in luxury transactions in the region. Maxwell-Baynes Vineyards model agent, this energetic young woman, former star of "The Voice" in China, does not hesitate to push the ditty with her jazz band during the inaugurations, and moves heaven and earth to meet the expectations of its more demanding customers. "Here the owner did not want to sell to a Chinese, but the money has its power ... My customers of course buy the art of living in France, but impossible for them to produce the wrong wine, and that it is "They do not want to lose face," she explains, as she walks around the Chateau Milord, a charming property transformed by the new owner, Hong Kong businessman Edwin Cheung. For four years, millions of euros of renovation. Heated pool, karaoke lounge, and even a six-hole golf course in preparation. This businessman, who owns a cellar of 15,000 bottles of fine wines, has never settled in the chateau, located in Grézillac (between-two-seas). Everything from accounting to the size of the vines is outsourced to a local agency. And seasonal workers who do not hunt outside to pick up bunches will not find a single bottle at local wine shops. All production will be shipped in containers for China, without exception.
A drop of water in a giant market, the first export for Bordeaux wines, estimated at 628 million euros per year by the CIVB (the interprofessional council of Bordeaux wines), an increase in volume of more than 15% per year ... A market for increasingly demanding consumers, whose palates are exercised. Formerly reserved for gifts between high dignitaries of the Communist Party, the best vintages of red (the lucky color) are now prized by the upper middle class, and Bordeaux in particular (by far the most famous "brand") buy in a few clicks on dedicated applications. In the streets of old Bordeaux as in those of Saint-Emilion, the Chinese tourists came to visit chateau's and oenotheques as on pilgrimage, are now legions. The Grand Hotel de Bordeaux, the city's only 5-star luxury hotel, is not enough to welcome all its visitors to well-stocked portfolios. For some amateurs, the ultimate experience lies in producing their own nectar. This is the case of Hugo Tian, Francophile businessman who looks like a gentleman farmer. Emu in front of the bluish grains of the first harvest of his chateau Fauchey, acquired with friends last summer, he does not lose sight of the peculiarities of Chinese consumers

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The training, whether express or high level, the adventurers of Chinese wine also come to the source. Directly in Bordeaux. At CAFA, a private school located on the quays of the city center, more than three-quarters of students in international sommellerie are Chinese. At the Institut Supérieur de la Vigne et du Vin, a unique public training center of its kind, PhD students return home with a high level of cultural and technical background. Ready to apply ancestral recipes, boosted by biotechnologies. "Currently, we do not need Chinese wine yet: Bordeaux is all that counts for consumers of good red wine. But in 20 years, maybe 10, I think we will be competitive and the world geography of wine will be upset, "says Alex Lee, founder and CEO of Wajiu, one of the first Chinese importers in the sector. Beyond the sometimes coarse copy-pasting of chateau's built around Beijing, China is indeed the country that plants the most vineyards in the world, and has just overtaken France, with 847,000 hectares of total area, second in the world behind Spain, according to the latest score of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV). From the mountains of Yunnan to the Gobi desert, the best grape varieties from the Bordeaux region are tested. Far from the valleys of the Entre-Deux-Mers and the paved streets of Saint-Emilion, a new wine revolution is already beginning.

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Fancy Pictures


© Mark Neville

Fancy Pictures


© Mark Neville

Published by Steidl 224 pages, 109 images Hardback / Clothbound 29 x 26.2 cm English ISBN 978-3-86930-908-8 First Edition September 2016

Published by Steidl
224 pages, 109 images
Hardback / Clothbound
29 x 26.2 cm
English

ISBN 978-3-86930-908-8
First Edition September 2016

Fancy Pictures is the first commercially available book on the work of artist Mark Neville and surveys twelve years of his practice. Neville normally only disseminates his photo books (free) either to the communities he photographs, or to authorities and government policy makers in order to highlight social issues ranging from PTSD among veterans, to toxic waste disposal. You cannot buy his photo books in the shops.

Image from The Port Glasgow Book Project 2004

Image from The Port Glasgow Book Project 2004

Fancy Pictures brings together six of Mark Neville’s socially engaged and intensely immersive projects from the last decade. Neville often pictures working communities in a collaborative process intended to be of direct, practical benefit to his subjects. The Port Glasgow Book Project(2004) is a book of his social documentary images of the Scottish town. Copies were given directly to all 8000 residents. A second Scottish project involved Neville living and working with the farming community of the Isle of Bute for eighteen months. Deeds Not Words (2011) focuses on Corby, an English town that suffered serious industrial pollution. Assembling photos and scientific data, he produced a book to be given free to the environmental health services department of each of the 433 local councils in the UK.

Image from Deeds Not Words 2010

Image from Deeds Not Words 2010

In 2011 Neville spent three months working on the front line, Afghanistan, as an official war artist, making Helmand. Two projects for the USA are also included. Invited by the Andy Warhol Museum in 2012, Neville examined social divisions in Pittsburgh, and the photo-essay Here is London, commissioned by The New York Times Magazine, echoes the style of the celebrated photographers who documented the boom and bust of the 1970s and ’80s.

Image from Here Is London 2011

Image from Here Is London 2011

Image from Braddock / Sewickley 2012

Image from Braddock / Sewickley 2012

Fancy Pictures includes not just a key selection of the photographs from each project, and an extended interview with David Campany, but also a wealth of responses from the communities I worked with, who were both the recipients and the subjects of my books and projects, and the audiences for the work. By representing these projects in Fancy Pictures, I mean to open up a dialogue about the nature of audience and purpose in contemporary photographic practice." Mark Neville

click to view all the images in the book in sequence 
click to read the in-depth interview between Mark and David Campany

Image from The Port Glasgow Book Project 2004

Image from The Port Glasgow Book Project 2004

Image from Fancy Pictures 2008

Image from Fancy Pictures 2008

Image from The Helmand Work 2011

Image from The Helmand Work 2011

Image from The Helmand Work 2011

Image from The Helmand Work 2011

Image from Braddock / Sewickley 2012

Image from Braddock / Sewickley 2012

Image from Braddock / Sewickley 2012

Image from Braddock / Sewickley 2012

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Wild Fire, Wild Suburbs, Wild Energy


© Alan McFetridge

Wild Fire, Wild Suburbs, Wild Energy


© Alan McFetridge

Our failure to address the most awesome challenge of human history, with the possible exception of nuclear weapons, is indeed a true derangement. These are the two existential challenges that overwhelm anything else, completely overshadow all other discussions.
— Noam Chomsky

100 Townsend Dr, Anzac, AB T0P 1J0, Canada. Feburary 2017.

Black Spruce, Highway 63, near Fort McMurray, Alberta, 2016

20 October 2016. It was the end of the road all right. My journey north into the subarctic boreal forest was over upon reaching the confluence of the Clearwater and Athabasca rivers. The air at dawn was below freezing and misty, which became a brilliant fog as the rising sun revealed widespread alteration to the landscape. The evacuation must have been intense and chaotic.

I was on a division line of difference, near where a vast 588,000-hectare wildfire nicknamed ‘The Beast’ had begun six months earlier and became the most costly natural disaster in the history of Canada. The wildfre’s aftermath surrounded me, showing newly made gaps where houses and even entire suburbs had been, with blackened tree trunks standing as far as I could see, right out to the distant horizon. Habitats of pine, birch, aspen and spruce were broken – charred and scattered like bones in an open grave.

Renewal had started – the missing suburbs of the Fort McMurray neighbourhoods of Waterways, Abasand and Beacon Hill had been cleaned up and covered over to start afresh. Emerging whips of aspen and red dogwood were already a metre high, and mosses, shrubs and grasses were rising from the nutrient-rich ash. There was stillness here – shock from the trauma and recovery which evoked a sense of melancholy. I was yet to witness the horror. 

Syncrude Oil Refinery,  Mildred Lake, Alberta, Canada, 2017

Callen Drive, over looking Parsons Creek subdivison, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, 2017. 

March 2017, at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The linguist Noam Chomsky – referring to Indian author Amitav Ghosh’s acclaimed 2016 book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable – states: ‘Our failure to address the most awesome challenge of human history, with the possible exception of nuclear weapons, is indeed a true derangement. These are the two existential challenges that overwhelm anything else, completely overshadow all other discussions.’  

This project exhibits a journey into Alberta’s vast boreal forest. It begins quietly at the outskirts of Edmonton and ultimately shows the most extreme nature of unconscious human behaviour towards the richness of the earth’s landscape – a result of civilisation’s blind quest for energy from dangerous fossil fuels; an example of ongoing human plundering as if there are no consequences. 

The settlement of Fort McMurray proliferated after 1970 with the arrival of industrial-scale surface mining. It is situated 42 kilometres south of the Syncrude oil refinery, the scourge of the earth in Alberta’s tar sand (or oil sand) operations, where non-conventional extraction of bitumen has created the world’s largest mine, by area, potentially covering 149,000 square kilometres, equivalent in size to Greece. Here, hazardous fossil fuels from the earth’s most extensive biome, the boreal forest, are exploited to supply worldwide energy demand – symptomatic of a human civilisation reliant on consumption and processing of fossil fuel for profit and growth. In 2015, government-run Environment Canada issued data showing that seven refineries within a 30-kilometre radius extracted bitumen from surface mining or deeper by the new steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology, and released a total of 34 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere that year. Production in 2016 distributed 2.4 million barrels of oil daily via 30-inch pipelines. These channels are now being upgraded and include the planned Keystone XL pipeline.   

Hospital St, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, 2016

Grayling Terrace, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, 2016

Projections published in 2017 by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) state that by 2030, production will have increased to 3.67 million barrels per day for the tar sand region and 5.4 million barrels per day for western Canadian crude oil. For every barrel of oil that comes from surface mining, up to four barrels of fresh water become contaminated and then deposited in unsealed tailings ponds. The scale of engineering and mining has altered the landscape beyond comprehension and made Canada third in global oil supply.

The importance, scale and diversity of the boreal forest are equally impressive. Worldwide, it accounts for 33 per cent of the earth’s forested area. It is the world’s largest land biome – and a gigantic green lung that cleans our atmosphere.

Fire is a primary process for the boreal forest, which migrated north during the Wisconsin Glacial Episode and over the following 10,000-year period of relative climatic stability has used fire to cleanse and renew. Fire accounts for the diverse patchwork mosaic of trees and plant species here. In the current accelerating change in climate there is significant concern about the how quickly the forest can adapt and how fire will interact under anthropogenic conditions. From an earth science perspective, the boreal forest is now one of 18 subsystems within the earth system which sit on a tipping point. Its stability is at risk of collapsing, becoming out of control. Recent protracted drier, hotter summers are creating conditions that influence wildfre frequency and severity; and permafrost is melting. These are two significant factors that will tip over the boreal with substantial consequences for life, possibly somewhere else on the planet too. Both effects are a result of global CO2 emissions, generated by widespread use of fossil fuels across human networks. 

Lumber Yard, HWY-63, Chard, Alberta, Canada. February 2017

Professor of wildland fre Mike Flannigan has termed this division between wildland and industry as an ‘ecological frontier’, whereby our 300,000-year-old human civilisation, the pinnacle of our technology and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure are set firmly against an irritated 4.5 billion-year-old earth system. 

The evidence that our climate is changing owing to human activity is overwhelming. Attitudes towards climate change vary widely, with a small minority of people denying this evidence. Much more are ambivalent about the issue. Research shows that views about climate change, our underlying values and our world views are all linked. Directly confronting people’s beliefs tends actually to reinforce them, but there are other, less direct ways to approach the issue. This project aims to present the cause and effect of global consumption – how the earth system is affected when unrealistic quantities of CO2 and GHGs (greenhouse gasses) are released into the atmosphere and overload the capability of subsystems such as the boreal to cleanse and recycle efficiently. It highlights the urgency to address homocentric attitudes so that world cities of the future function in harmony with their surroundings – in much the same way that a coral reef does with the life it supports. 

I acknowledge that, framed within the context of global energy, Alberta’s fossil fuel resources and supply of crude oil are part of a complex global exchange mechanism that supplies infrastructure and products to the major and minor metropolitan areas of the globe. The crude is subsequently consumed, releasing further GHG, or processed into a multitude of manifestations including plastic, roads and paint. I received abundant welcomes and experienced open receptions throughout Canada, and this project is no judgement on the good people that I met along the way or those who live in Fort McMurray and seek a better life for themselves and their families.  

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

The full project contains 160 colour photographs, 3000-word essay, journal entry, 20-page dossier, contaminated human hair samples and sound recordings.

Photographs were taken between 15 October and 15 November 2016; and between 14 and 28 February 2017. 

Acknowledgements

Professor Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta
Lynn Johnston, forest fire research specialist, Natural Resources Canada
Selina Ozanne, research assistant
Professor Will Steffen, earth system scientist and emeritus professor at the Australian National University
Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, stratigrapher and convenor of the Working Group on the Anthropocene
The Royal Photographic Society and The Photographic Angle Environmental Awareness Bursary

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People of the Whale


© Kiliii Yüyan

People of the Whale


© Kiliii Yüyan

Every spring for the last 2000 years, the Iñupiaq people have stood on the tuvaq, the edge of the shorefast ice, waiting for the annual migration of bowhead whales. The whaling season has begun. 

The Iñupiaq are the indigenous people of the North Slope of Alaska, whose culture developed around the practice of whaling. For over 2,000 years they have patiently hunted bowhead whales from sealskin boats called umiaqs. Kanisan Ningeok explains, “We sit on the ice and hope the whale gives itself.”

Bowhead whaling is a cultural cornerstone of Iñupiat identity and a primary source of food on the Arctic Slope, where the cost of living is nearly three times that of mainland US. For the past three springs, I have stood on the sea ice as a guest of a whaling crew. As an indigenous person, I wanted to understand and document their subsistence life in the Arctic, where the danger of cultural death is just as imminent as an attack from a polar bear.

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Climate change makes the headlines the world over, but few understand how critical it is to the lives of the Iñupiaq. The sea ice has declined and become so unstable in the spring that conditions are nearly too dangerous for the hunters. Soon it will be impossible for the crews to haul their catch onto the ice to butcher and distribute. Yet, for this culture whose identity centers around the whale, there is no option to stop hunting. The whale is who they are, what their community is bound by. There is so much knowledge acquisition centered around the skinboats. This is all essential: how to hunt seals to cover umiaq frames, how to keep polar bears at bay, how to live on the ice.

This project began as a set of impressions of the stark and beautiful world on the sea ice. My crew stood on the ice next to our skinboat. We waited for the return of the bowhead whales.  We watched, day and night, as starving polar bears tried to catch us unawares. We felt the ice melt under our feet.

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I’m beginning to understand the essence of this Native culture, and by extension, my own. The traditions, the whaling, they bring everyone together. From the moment a whaling crew begins to prepare, half the village finds a way to participate. This is what it means to be the People of the Whale. I started this project searching for the striking imagery of whaling. I leave this project with an invisible Iñupiaq sensibility so deeply embedded, I will forever seek to capture it my work.

People of the Whale is about resilience—adapting to the insidious forces of climate change, and Native resilience against globalization through tradition.

 

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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American Realities


© Joakim Eskildsen

American Realities


© Joakim Eskildsen

The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied... but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.
— John Berger
Steidl Hardback / Clothbound 24 x 20 cm English ISBN 978-3-86930-734-3

Steidl
Hardback / Clothbound
24 x 20 cm
English

ISBN 978-3-86930-734-3

One in every six Americans lived below the official U.S. poverty line when Kira Pollack, Director of Photography at Time Magazine, commissioned Eskildsen to capture the growing crisis. During thirty-six days spread over seven months in 2011, and mostly accompanied by reporter Natasha del Toro, he traveled through New York, California, Louisiana, South Dakota and Georgia, visiting places that according to census data have the highest poverty rate.

Approximately 50 million poor Americans are a heterogeneous population from very varying backgrounds. Some are newly poor, some are immigrants who have come from humble conditions, dreaming of the American possibilities. Of course, U.S. poverty differs from poverty in developing countries. People living below the poverty line can have physical goods, even work — but they are mired in debt, many homes are in foreclosure, and most often, being poor also implies having to resort to the cheapest, most unhealthy and risky lifestyle. Any unexpected occurrence may jeopardize the fragile system and find people living on the streets.

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If you live below the poverty line in the U.S. you are most likely to live in an unsafe area with high crime rates. Houses Eskildsen visited were often completely barred, the windows taped for security reasons, and parents were scared to let their children go out. Inside the homes, often built from low quality materials, air conditioning and TV's were running at all times. The influence of the mass media is enormous, and many people consider themselves as losers since they cannot live up to the ideals that are presented to them on TV.

The minimum wage in the U.S. is so low that people often have several jobs in order to afford a house, food, and a car. Since infrastructure in the U.S. requires automobile transport and public transport is poor, people are totally dependant on their cars, and a car breaking down or the lack of money for petrol can easily mean loosing a job or even a home.

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In The neighbourhoods Eskildsen visited, there was no alternative to the low quality food offered cheaply in stores and fast food chains. Fresh food and vegetables, if available at all, were entirely out of range of affordability for most people, so risky food was consumed on a daily basis. Many people develop diseases related to unhealthy nutrition, and if you lack health insurance even minor health problems can unbalance the family’s economy. Many had lost their homes because of a hospital stay.

History is an open wound, and most of the people suffer both mentally and physically. What struck Eskildsen as extremely positive were all the grass root level organizations who, out of their own will and initiative, helped the poor and homeless in an admirable way.

The myth of the "American Dream" is very strong in the U.S. and it seems people are disillusioned with the fact that it is so difficult to get by today. They said there is no American dream anymore. This, they said, was the American Reality.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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Orthodox in modern Russia


© Pavel Volkov

Orthodox in modern Russia


© Pavel Volkov

The Russian orthodox church is one of the autocephalous Eastern orthodox churches. There are about 260 million of orthodox people in the World and about Approximately 60 million of Russians consider themselves orthodox.

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In  Soviet period religion was considered to be forbidden, thousands of churches and abbeys were destroyed, the believers and the clergy were prosecuted. Lots of them were executed and buried in unknown graves. After the USSSR collapsed the situation changed. Now more and more churches are opened in Russia. Now we face a new trend in Russian society – the appearance of new orthodox movements for young people.

According to many participants of this project, the starting point for the emergence of the most powerful movement named Forty times forty was in 2013 when a group of people called Pussy Riot made a so-called punk-service in the main Moscow church – The Cathedral of Christ the savior. At that moment the Russian society was split into two camps: those who condemn and those who supported Pussy riot. People began to unite, some of them wanted to protect the interests of Russian orthodox church, and there were lots of young people among them.  Now they are often called orthodox activists.

The emergence of such movements is an example that the Russian orthodox church began to work with young people and not only rely on the older generation. More and more often you see young people visiting services and orthodox events.

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As said by the participants of such movements in Russia  the image of an Orthodox person was formed as as an elderly person, often coming to Church because of some personal problems such as alcoholism or drug addiction. But in the new Orthodox movements people want to show that Orthodox people must be strong in mind and body. So  they visit not only the Church, but the gym is an essential attribute. They draw attention to the fact that  in many Orthodox icons, saints are depicted with swords in their hands, ready to defend themselves, their land and their people.

In these works Volkov tried to depict the desire of these people to show character, to do martial arts and at the same time - absolute submission and obedience to God. Two different states, but they  have something in common - the desire to be strong and to be obedient to God, spending time in the build-up of strength and prayers.

 

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

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I Love Odessa


© Mark Neville

I Love Odessa


© Mark Neville

This work was commissioned by The New York Times Magazine for the September Voyages issue.

This work was commissioned by The New York Times Magazine for the September Voyages issue.

The beaches are no different to beaches anywhere else in the world, the seas are no cleaner, and they are no dirtier. The amusement arcades are the same, and the provision for families on vacation very similar to those you might find on a seaside resort in Britain or America. But the people make it special. Odessans have there own sense of humour, and Ukrainians in general have a directness which I appreciate. There is less bullshit there than in the UK. People tell you what is on their mind. Ukraine is a country at war, and facing one economic crisis after another.  Ukrainians are very hard working people, proud, generous, and extremely self sufficient ( they often hold down three or four jobs in order to cope financially). Ukrainian people have been badly let down by successive corrupt governments and politicians; does this sound a familiar story to Americans? It does to me as a Brit. The Ukrainian people I meet on holiday in Odessa have worked hard for their vacations.


Odessa is the third most populous city of Ukraine and a major tourism centre. During the 19th century, it was the fourth largest city of Imperial Russia, after Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw.


When I was making a recent work about displaced Ukrainians much earlier this year I visited the National Circus, which is based in Kiev. Backstage I took photographs of a woman in her fifties, Yulia, who performed an act with monkeys. The monkeys live with her and her mother, and they are really part of the family. Yulia explained to me how every August they go to Odessa, a beautiful seaside holiday destination, and take the monkeys with them. She told me how the monkeys swim in the sea, much to the astonishment and delight of the other tourists and local Ukrainian holiday makers..When The New York Times Magazine approached me about making a photo essay, anywhere in the world, about families on vacation, I immediately thought about Odessa, and about Yulia and her circus animal family (as close to her as any human family). I had got on well with Yulia, she clearly really cares intensely for the animals, and she had already invited me to come along this Summer and take photos.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017 I had previously travelled through Ukraine and Russia making new work focusing on the estimated 2.5 million internally and externally displaced Ukrainians resulting from the war in the Donbas. The resulting photographic prints and video interviews are accompanied by the interpretation of new survey data from Professor Gwen Sasse and are on currently display at the Centre for Eastern European and International Studies in Berlin (ZOiS). The survey conducted by ZOiS in November and December 2016 provided the first comparative data on the attitudes and identities of the people displaced by the war in Eastern Ukraine both within Ukraine and to Russia.

In my eyes modern day Odessa is a place defined by contradictions; wealth and poverty, excess and restraint, and conflict as well as holiday and vacation..and that is what makes it so fascinating, so relevant now. I had an Italian cultural reference in my mind when I started taking photos in Odessa - the films of Fellini- and I had initially considered shooting my series in black and white, in an attempt to reference films like ‘La Dolce Vita’. Many times while I was photographing the beaches of Arkadia and Lanzheron, the whole beach would stop and stare as military helicopters would fly over, reminders that the conflict in Donbass, some 500 km away, is still raging on a daily, deadly basis. But a minute later, and everyone, including the monkey, was immersed again in well earned vacations.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive