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Full Frame: A fairy tale of the Soviet monolith

In photos: Ex-Soviets confuse the memory of their innocent youth for their nation's utopian vision.

Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field.

The USSR was not only a vast closed territory with extensive geographical boundaries that stretched from Europe through Asia but it was also a huge well of memory or dis-memory — a utopian vision that became a dystopian nightmare lasting nearly a century. The story of communism is the story of the 20th 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. 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.

— From Jason Eskenazi's book "Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith"

About the photographer:

The fall of the Berlin Wall led me out of Queens into the larger world. After trips to Germany and Romania for their first democratic elections, I traveled to Russia in 1991, just before the August coup that marked the end of the USSR, and have returned many times since. My trips culminated in a photography book project called "Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith," exhibited at Visa pour L'Image in Perpignan, France, and at the Leica Gallery in New York, published by DeMo Books 2008.

In 2004 I received a Fulbright Scholarship to return to Russia to make a series of large format color portraits called "Title Nation" with a Russian colleague. I have received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1999; The Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Prize, 1999, for my work in a Jewish Village in Azerbaijan; and The Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant, 1996. My work has appeared in many magazines including Time, Newsweek and The New York Times.

In 2004-2005, I organized a Kids with Cameras workshop in the old city of Jerusalem, teaching photography to Arab Muslims and Jewish children which I presented at the 92 Street Y in New York. It was also featured on ABC News and in National Geographic and Hadassah magazines. I am now organizing exhibitions for this project in the U.S. and I hope to bring it back to Israel and to the kids who shot it.

I stopped taking pictures in March 2008 and worked as Security Guard at the MET museum in New York City for almost two years. I quit last November. Now I'm preparing a magazine called SWIPE First issue entitled "Guards' Matter" by and for the museum guards showcasing their artwork.

I am currently planning and trying to find funding for my next project "The Black Garden," about East/West duality, set in the geographical locations known to the ancient Greeks. I am seeking out a sequence of visual metaphors that are once about the failure of those ideals and about a journey of lost traditions in an ever culturally ambiguous and ubiquitous world.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/full-frame/100216/ussr-soviet-union