Jason Eskenazi: Wonderland

Jason Eskenazi's Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith reads and feels like a novel. At five by seven inches in size, the book is easy to retrieve from the bookshelf and it doesn't take up an entire night stand. The editing of this book is very tight. Each photograph was carefully chosen to connect to the next one. Every black and white image is rich with details, carries emotional pull and Mr. Ezkenazi's eye for composition is exquisite. Because of this, my experience with Wonderland differs every time I pick it up. That's what I love about it. When I look at them again, I often find details that I didn't notice before. Wonderland gets better with age and I choose it whenever I need a dose of inspiration. I am looking forward to Jason's new book The Black Garden which received crowdsourced funding last year via kickstarter.com. He is currently doing an artist in residence program at Lightwork in Syracuse, NY.

Here's a description of the book in Jason's words:

The USSR was not only a vast closed territory with extensive geographical boundaries that stretched from Europe through Asia but is 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.

Photographer Jason Eskenazi talks about his day job

A few months ago, I came across Jason Eskenazi's images at the New York Times Lens blog. The entry mentioned his day job as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city. I was completely intrigued by it and looked online for more information. I came across this 5 minute audio interview:

1:01: Broke and uninsured, self-taught photographer Jason Eskenazi moved back to his mother's home in Queens, NY and talks about his experience working as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Source: Studio 360

His story inspires me. I am particularly struck by his optimistic mindset in spite of the mundane rigors of his job. He clearly depicted the sacrifices he needed to do in order to live his photographic life.

On November 18, 2009, he wrote a note to his photographer friend, Daniel Sheehan:

Dear Dan,

As you know I worked at the MET for almost 2 years as a security guard. In the last months I guarded the Robert Frank show almost everyday. Ive been asking famed photogs what photo of the 83 images in the Americans really does it for them or that they can say they were ‘born’ out of, is their hands down favorite. I’m trying to get 83 photographers to respond to this survey question.

I finally quit and I'm on my way to Turkey.

Hope all is well.


Good luck to you Jason and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!