Tuesday, June 15, 2010

PHOTOESSAY: Emerging Photographer Grant 2010 Recipient: Davide Monteleone, Northern Caucasus (burnmagazine.org)

Northern Caucasus is a mix of stereotypes as well as surprises. For centuries it has been a country of political, religious, military and expansionist rivalry, a struggle between opposing states, and also between allied states. Ever since the beginning of the 19th century, this region has been part of the tsarist Russian Empire, later absorbed by the Soviet Block.

With the 1991 radical transformations involving the entire Warsaw Pact coalition, and the storm caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, new and ancient disputes resurfaced, and in some cases worsened, and revived political and economic aims of supremacy in the area.

This project takes into account the regions in which these disputes are not over yet, or may be apparently concluded, as intermittent fires under the political rhetoric of normalization and pacification. I intend to investigate with without prejudices such reality, beginning with the daily life of people living in the Northern Caucasus, who never reached their coveted independence and are still suffering the ramifications of the Russian Empire during the colonial age. They are divided between the claim for independence and the pride for their diversity, economic subordination, the historical-political and mental affiliation, the condemnation to an eternal geographic position in a limbo limes, and the elaboration of a new post-soviet identity. My goal is to go further away from the bird’s eye view of the geopolitical analysis, gliding down to a low altitude to find the details of such a complex world, with the aim to give a new key to the present day Russian Caucasus.

I’ve been working from Chechnya to Dagestan, from Northern to Southern Ossetia, just after the war in August 2008, all the way to Abkhazia, from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea coasts, crossing geographical and political borders. My interest isn’t to cover the news that brought the region back under the international floodlights, but to carry on a considered path by making notes of the tracks left behind.


Born in 1974, Davide Monteleone spent the first 18 years of his life moving to various cities of Italy because of the work of his parents. After graduating, he studied engineering and then stopped to move to the U.S. and after that to England. Is here that he discovered his interest in photography and journalism. Back in Italy in 2000, he completed his studies in photography and journalism and began working with the major Italian magazines. At the end of 2001 he moved again, this time to Moscow, where he lived until 2003 working as correspondent for the photo agency Contrasto. This choice proved to be determining for his career. He started working regularly with major national and international newspapers such as D, Io Donna L’espresso, New York Times, Time, Stern, and the New Yorker. Since 2003 he lives both in Italy and Russia, where he is pursuing long-term personal projects and continues his editorial work. He published his first book Dusha, Russian Soul in 2007.

Editor’s Note:

Davide will receive $15,000. from Burn Magazine through the Magnum Cultural Foundation to continue his work in the Northern Caucasus.

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