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“Wonderland” by Jason Eskenazi

“Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith” by Jason Eskenazi is a book that I enjoy browsing through once in a while.

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Wonderland features 77 black and white photographs Eskenazi made in the former Soviet Union or USSR from 1990 to 2001. The publisher’s blurb for the book:-

“The story of Communism is the story of the twentieth century. 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. Wonderland is a photographic exploration that portrays both the reality beneath the veneer of a utopian USSR and the affirmation of hope that should never be abandoned. And like all fairy tales try to teach us: the hard lessons of self-reliance.”

Wonderland is 5″x7″ in size with 224 pages sandwiched between 2 pieces of thick cardboard which act as the book’s cover. The B&W photographs run across double spreads which usually are a source of irritation for me due to parts of the image getting lost in the gutter of the double spread. Thankfully, the design and construction of Wonderland allows the viewer to open the book flat so that nothing is lost in the gutter.

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The photographs in the book look like a mix between documentary and street photography. Wonderland somehow feels to me like a companion book to Carolyn Drake’s Two Rivers which I recently wrote about HERE. Both were photographed in the former USSR and though Drake’s photographs are in colour while Eskenazi’s are in B&W, they are tied together by the common thread of a feeling of melancholy that runs through them.

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There are two excellent interviews with Eskenazi that can be found on the web; one on the A Photo Student (APS) website HERE where he talks about his journey as a photographer and another one on Eric Kim‘s website HERE where he talks more about his photographic process. Both are highly recommended reading for all photographers.

“Wonderland is about nostalgia, choices, missed chances, the search for life… the finding of love and the loss of love. For me it is the metaphor of the Soviet Union.” ~Jason Eskenazi (from the APS interview)

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Wonderland is the first of a trilogy of books. The next book The Black Garden is currently still a work in progress that has been crowd funded through Kickstarter. Both print runs of Wonderland are sold out with some new and secondhand copies of the book selling for a premium on Amazon (see HERE). If you can find a copy at a reasonable price, it definitely is a recommended addition to your library.

All photographs from the book featured on this post © Jason Eskenazi