All photographs – Jason Eskenazi
Jason Eskenazi has a fascinating story. As a photographer eeking out a living in Queens at 30 years old, Jason took a life-altering plunge in 1991, when the Berlin Wall came down.
“I couldn’t sit still anymore. I thought, ‘I have to go out and take photos of world events to show people what was happening.’ I wanted to see what the Berlin Wall looked like. I wanted to see things for myself.”
He bought himself a one-way ticket.
Eskenazi met other photojournalists and soon began photographing the democratic turn in Eastern Europe. He took assignments for a few years but then realized that the photojournalist life wasn’t for him.
“I started to figure out that I was less interested in the direct information of events and started to take a step back. Instead of photographing someone suffering, I would step back and include someone looking at the suffering, and then I would take another step back and include myself somehow in the frame. Not literally, but emotionally.”
Eskenazi made his way to Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union and became intrigued. He began photographing with no aim in mind – pictures which would end up becoming Wonderland.
He saw the events occuring as a type of fairytale, but one with both magical and tragic aspects, and he structured the book in a way that would highlight this, although eventually realizing that he was “Searching for metaphors, but realizing, too late that I brought my own when I first arrived.”
Wonderland as a book took on a mythical status of its own, with rare copies going for over $500 until its recent rerelease.
The photos themselves are wide, varied, but all intimate. The locations cover interiors, ruins, fields, events, funerals, the beach, schools, street scenes. The people are captured up close and with feeling and emotion.
But the book doesn’t try to take on too much and that is where its magic lies. While the breadth of photography is extensive, it leaves so much up to the viewer’s imagination. It’s a fairytale for us to put together.