People - NOMINEE: Olga Ingurazova
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This is a series of interlaced stories that mirror the devastating war that struck a disputed region of the Caucasus and the aftermath of its geopolitical isolation. It is a story of a man and his homeland that were alienated from each other yet remaining within one mutual world of seclusion.
It recounts the journey of an unrecognized state as explored through the memory and identity of the Wolf, a self-exiled ex-soldier wounded in that war. He lives in self-imposed isolation high up on a mountain. It was by chance that I met him on a road when he rescued me and nurtured me back to health.
A disputed region on the Eastern coast of the Black Sea, Abkhazia was once a seaside resort. However, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the civil war that resulted when Abkhazia seceded from Georgia, the region’s economy shattered in the early 1990’s. After the conflict was over, no reminders of a previous life were left. The cost was high on both sides—not only in shattered lives and lost loved ones but also in terms of an international economic embargo that left the disputed territory in ruins. The fight for independence has turned into a fight for international recognition here, that still remains unnoticed.
Every year people mark the anniversary of the self-proclaimed republic with a military parade — even though their country doesn't exist on world political maps and the Abkhazian passport is invalid abroad. In the past 20 years, a new generation born in the country that remain in a sort of limbo, frozen in time while trying to build and maintain a national identity. The government has embarked upon a policy to increase the republic’s small population and to preserve its peoples’ ethos and roots.
At the beginning of my journey to the region I met a person whom now I consider of great importance for the given project. He calls himself Wolf, a nickname he was given during the war - the symbol of a warrior in Caucasian mythology. He still retains the nickname because for about 20 years now, he has been living in seclusion like a lone wolf. His childhood—spent growing up in a large farming family in an economy bolstered by tourism—was a happy one. When the war broke out, he was 22. He joined the Abkhaz army the day after his sister was killed by an unguided Georgian missile, a move that would protect his brothers, as one son out of every family was required to serve. The war changed him dramatically. He killed a man for the first time, buried his first friend, took his first drugs. In the last days of the war, when it was supposed to be Wolf's last mission to the Abkhazian-Georgian border, he survived a mine blast that killed three friends from his hometown and left him all scarred and almost deaf. Then he retreated to the mountains to live a life of self-imposed exile, which was more bearable to him than witnessing the fallout that ensued once the war ended. Post-conflict isolation and total lawlessness embittered people; they were destroying each other and everything that was spared by the war.
When I met him about two years ago, he lived alone in his small mountain homestead, and his only and favorite permanent neighbors were his animals. I intended to do some research on the region’s history. But on my trip there, I underwent emergency surgery for unexpected internal abdominal bleeding. I felt lucky to have survived. I lost about a liter of blood and got a scar that still serves as a reminder of that day. Lying in a hospital bed far from home, my first desire was to leave this place immediately. But a week spent with other patients became the moment of reckoning. I realized that my traumatic experience was part of the everyday life for many locals. Almost everyone I've met had experienced loss—of a loved one and of their livelihood.
I had been driven to the hospital by an unknown man. I really “met” him for the first time when he came to the hospital to check on me. It was Wolf. On learning that I needed a place to convalesce and too ill to travel—he offered to let me to stay with him. I took an enormous leap of faith, trusting my safety to a stranger. He nursed me back to health, and over the next three years, as I returned, we developed our friendship. Gradually he opened up to me about his own story little by little, piece by piece. I began to photograph him. Through our dialogues, he finally found the strength to discover again his "home" which he tried to avoid for several decades of little daily concerns that were helping to ease his anxiety. Many places and people from his stories became protagonists of my photographs. Landmarks embodied in his personal experience became the guiding storyline of the whole project. Wolf’s story was one of the several I was focusing on for the series, and eventually it became clear that he was the story. I came to understand that the pain he endured was symbolic of the trauma experienced by the entire region. He’s since become the main character, the lens through which I wanted to show the story of this place and its people.
These years of personal exploration of this place and Wolf tales demonstrated me evidently the true meaning of the disaster — how the consequences of war affect people for the rest of their lives and how there is no power in this world that can fill this gap. Neglect and isolation both forced and voluntary, prevent people from regaining a sense of worthy existence, both individually and collectively. But the most powerful takeaway for me was finding that in the midst of all of that, life goes on.
Olga Ingurazova (b. 22.02.1985) is a freelance documentary photographer with a background in international relations and economics based in Moscow, Russia. After years of working in the tourism industry, she became active as a photographer and a visual journalist.
Olga began her photography career by documenting post-conflict recovery and the aftermath of separatist movements in the Caucasus. Her works have been part of both individual and group exhibitions in Russia, France, Italy, Portugal, Georgia, Croatia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Olga won the 2015 JGS Photography Contest of the Forward Thinking Museum and the Commended Entry of the 2015 IAFOR Documentary Photography Award. She became a 2014 Aftermath Project grant finalist, a finalist for the 2015 Lucie Foundation Scholarship Award, and 2015 Invisible Photographer Asia Mentorship Program Scholarship Grant winner. She was short-listed for the 2014 Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation grant. She was also named to the 2015 shortlist of Magnum Photo’s "30 under 30" list of emerging documentary photographers, and was listed as one of Photo Boite’s 2015 “30 under 30 women photographers” to watch.
Currently she is focused on personal long-term documentary projects, working in both photography and multimedia. At the center of her attention are the effects of political, social and environmental processes on peoples’ lives and on the land they inhabit.
High School of Film and Television Ostankino | Television director and producer | Moscow, Russia || 2006 - 2008
Lomonosov Moscow State University | Photojournalism | Moscow, Russia || 2010 - 2012
WORKED IN FOLLOWING COUNTRIES
Brazil | Croatia | Czech Republic | Dominican Republic | France | Georgia | Germany | Greece | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Moldova | Montenegro | Netherlands | Poland | Russia | Serbia | South Africa |Spain | Turkey | Ukraine | Partially recognized states | Abkhazia | Kosovo | Transnistria |
Articles and photos published in following magazines, newspapers & websites:
National Geographic (United States), Russian Reporter magazine (Russia), Io Donna (Italy), Internazionale (Italy), Courrier international (France), Lens Culture magazine (United States), FK Magazine (Latvia), Kommersant (Russia), Ogoniok magazine (Russia), FK Magazine (Latvia), Doppiozero magazine (Italy), Colta (Russia), Vechernyaya Moskva (Russia), Russian Planet (Russia), Le Courrier de Russie magazine (France) etc.
War is Only Half the Story. Volume VIII | The Aftermath Project, United States, 2015
AWARDS | HONORS:
Lucie Foundation Scholarship Award. | Short-listed artist. 2015
FotoVisura Grant for Outstanding Personal Project. | Honorable Mention. 2015
Magnum ’30 under 30’ list of emerging documentary photographers to watch. | Finalist. 2015
Emaho Foundation’s Emerging Asian Photography Grant. | Finalist. 2015
Forward Thinking Museum JGS Photography Contest. | Winner. 2015
IAFOR Documentary Photography Award. | Commended Entry. 2015
Palm Springs Photo Festival Slide Show Contest. | Finalist. 2015
PhotoTales Multimedia Projects Award. | 2015
’30 under 30 women photographers to watch’ by Photo Boite. | 2015
Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA) Mentorship Program Scholarship Grant. | Winner. 2015
Aftermath Project Grant. | Finalist. 2014
Lucie Foundation Scholarship Award. | Short-listed artist. 2014
Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation Grant. | Short-listed artist. 2014
Efremov Report Photography Competition. | 3rd place. 2014
EXHIBITIONS | FESTIVALS | SCREENINGS:
Palm Springs Photo Festival | ‘Scars of Independence’ screening. 2015, Palm Springs, US
Latvian Museum of Photography | ‘Scars of Independence’ solo exhibition. 2015, Riga, Latvia
‘Fotografia’ International Festival of Rome | ‘Scars of Independence’ multimedia. 2015, Rome, Italy
Magnum photo agency and Photography Show |"30 under 30" emerging documentary photographers to watch. 2015, London
Photo Boite Exhibition | ‘30 under 30 women photographers to watch’. 2015
Photo Kathmandu Festival | ‘Scars of Independence’ multimedia. 2015, Nepal, Kathmandu
International Photography Festival GuatePhoto | Group exhibition. 2015, Guatemala, Guatemala city
International Festival of contemporary photography ‘Bitume Photofest’ | 2015, Lecce, Italy
XII International Biennale of Photography of Tenerife | Group exhibition ‘Scars of Independence’. 2015, Canary Islands, Spain
VI International Festival of Photography PhotoVisa | ‘Scars of Independence’ solo exhibition. 2014, Krasnodar, Russia
Slideluck slideshows | ‘Scars of Independence’ screening. 2014, Bologna, Italy
Encontros da Imagem Festival | ‘Scars of Independence’ multimedia. 2014, Braga, Portugal
International photography festival Organ Vida | ‘Scars of Independence’ screening. 2014, Zagreb, Croatia
Efremov Report Photography Competition | Group exhibition ‘Aftermath Postcards’. 2014, Tobolsk, Russia
Piter Photo Fest. | Group exhibition ‘Aftermath Postcards’. 2014, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
Kolga Tbilisi Photo Festival | Group exhibition ‘Aftermath Postcards’. 2014, Tbilisi, Georgia
V International Festival of Photography PhotoVisa | Group exhibition ‘Forsaken Land’. 2013 Krasnodar, Russia
Kuldīga Town library | Exhibition ‘Family Values’. 2013, Kuldiga, Latvia
Volga Biennale | Exhibition ‘Forsaken Land’, 2013, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
2nd Biennale of Modern Russian Photography | 2013, Saint Petersburg, Russia
International Perm Biennale of Photography | 2011, Perm, Russia
Kaunas Photo Star international photo festival | ’Forsaken Land’ screening. 2011, Kaunas, Lithuania
Young Photographers of Russia. Russian young photo journalism festival | Exhibition ‘Forsaken Land’. 2011, Kazan, Russia
WORKSHOPS & COURSES
Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA) Mentorship Program | 2015 |
Adrian Kelterborn Workshop | Multimedia Storytelling | Kuldiga, Latvia, 2014
Yuri Kozyrev & Andrei Polikanov Workshop | Working with the Media | Kuldiga, Latvia, 2013
Rena Effendi Workshop | Visual storytelling | Moscow, Russia, 2012
Aleksandr Lapin workshop | Documentary Photography | Moscow, Russia, 2011
SKILLS & VOLUNTEERING
World Press Photo organization | temporary worker | Netherlands, Amsterdam, 2016
Medical emergency treatment | Red Cross first aid courses | Russia, Moscow, 2014, 2015
International Federation of Journalists | Hostile Environment Training| Russia, Moscow, 2014
Women's crisis center for victims of domestic violence | volunteer | Russia, Moscow, 2013, 2014