Yaxsi Yol AZ5!!!

September 29, 2009

To fanfair, drunken speeches, random hugs and breathless confessions of undying love, sometime in Sept. most of AZ5 left the Azerbaijan for travel, jobs, grad school, significant others, Americastan, mediocrity, success, and the occasional nostalgic thought of the ‘Baijan.

It was difficult to see them leave-my rag tag group of once clean always idealistic Americans-we had weathered 2 years of amazing experiences-survived squat toilets, stomach aids, vomiting out our body weight after libations at a Toy, not showering for 2 months, and piva at the Dove-we had broken new ground in cultural exchange by dancing the JumpRope in dive bars, the Robot at toys, and busting the Airplane with every Faried, Elnor and Faud-with the grace of a sledge hammer we stumbled over more cultural faux-paux then the population of the villages many of us lived in-sometimes profound, sometimes madly frustrating, but never, ever, ever, dull, life in the AZ was top notch for us all-to sum up, in the words of one Donald Stevens Jr. “We are in frickin AZERBAIJAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

AZ5, their time has ended here-my Azerbaijan adventure carries on. Exhilarating.

I miss for you and kisses you all!




























































































YarAdAn project,

In cooperation with Azra Vardar (Germany) and Colleen MacDonald (USA)

With generous support from Union of Azerbaijan Photographers and Asiyat Fatullayeva

Over the 3 summer months of 2009, youth ages 13-21, in the regions of Mingechevir, Goychay, Zaqatala, Xachmaz and Sheki participated in an intensive one week introductory digital photography course.  The course was taught by volunteers with the purpose of not only introducing photography, but also introducing and encouraging creative expression. For the youth, it was the first time they had used a camera.  Learning how to focus, try different angels and frame, the youth spent a week in their communities photographing people, objects and themselves.  The youth were bold in their approach; playing with everyday items to make them fantastic and fearlessly stepping in front of the camera themselves and to produce art that is both playful and relevant

                  Arming ourselves with cameras, water and our best smiles, Azeri and I set forth to conquer ‘The Factory’-a structure, somewhere between Baku and Ismailli that sports 4 stacks and look wretchedly out of place in the dessert that proceeds Baku-we both had been eyeing the beauty for most of the winter, and had finally set aside a weekend to tick a few items off our photography hit list-in context photographing anything in AZ is tricky-the numerous times I’ve been accused of being a spy, chased by yelling arm waving fat men, chased by pissed Xanims, been mobbed by street kids, have, all in all made creating a few pieces art not easy, sometimes dirty, sometimes scary and generally a challenge.

[Warning: Tangent!!! In fairness though, there have been several odd situations while photographing in other countries, take, USA and my hometown of MPLS-one night out wandering due to sleeplessness, I happened to be shooting a few long exposures of an old grain mill (original, huh?), was approached by a Rent-a-Cop (who make up for their utter uselessness by providing endless amusement trying to look tough and smart) who in one breath accused me of being part of a ring of prostitution /meth production, pointed to my tripod and asked “What’s that?”. Convinced of his stupidity (since old ripped jeans, an ugly tee shirt and a camera is the latest in MethHeadHooker fashion) I told him to leave me alone and go away-muttering under my breath as he drove away that if natural selection hadn’t already taken him, the recent event would guarantee at least an honorable mention in the DarwinAwards.]

So we set forth-as many things in AZ are, there is no straight path to anything, making our best guess we boarded a bus in hopes that it would take us in the general direction of ‘The Factory’ 20 min later we realized we’d gone in the opposite direction and were in an outlying suburb of Baku that, from our bus windows was mostly a collection of markets selling gas pipes, door/window frames, car parts and the occasional engine. With nothing to lose, we jumped off the bus at an old gate that was guarding a seemingly promising spread of old buildings. Too late we realized, that guarding the gate was a house turned guard shack, that was occupied by at least 3 curious police men (shown by 3 faces smashed up against one dirty window)-the pull of interesting buildings was too great and we marched up to the door, surprising the men with our boldness. It took a few min, of smooth taking on Azra’s part to convince the police we really just wanted to photograph the mosaics we had glimpsed through the gate. 15 min later we left the complex, mosaic pictures in hand, snickering helplessly-the 5 men in the shack were guarding an old, abandoned, and disused (since ’96) chicken farm.


The ‘NiceTaxiGuy’ dropped us off at the ‘The Factory’ gate and with a worried smile, asked if we wanted him to stay and wait-assuring him of our determination to see ‘The Factory’ we sent him back to Summie with many a ‘Yaxsi Yol!!’ and proceeded to look for an entrance. Lacking the tabbie boots/equipment usually required for such mad moves as vaulting ones self over a 13 foot high rusted gate/climbing a wall of corrugated iron topped with razor wire, we snapped a few photos through the gate hoping that, as it usually does in the AZ, someone would wander over to see what the ‘foreign girls’ were doing, and that person would happen to have a key. Call it fate, or just bloody good luck, that was exactly what happened, only it was 2 young men, who not only happened to ‘guard’ the complex, but who also happened to be incredibly bored out of their minds-as the day we appeared happened to fall in the middle of their 3 day guarding stint-a stint, that we later learned, was void of any form of amusement outside reading the Koran and bludgeoning to death the occasional snake. Initially suspicious, the young men, quickly realized that giving a ‘tour’ would likely make the next few house pass swiftly and lift the dull stupor of watching 25 acres of left over soviet factory slowly rot away. We spent the next 2 hours wandering around the factory-the guys telling us their life stories and throwing endless questions our way-to ensure we had no doubt as to their manliness, they also gave several dramatic accounts of heroic snake battles, in which they, of course were the victors. Since there are only so many ways to photo pealing paint and rust, we ended the day sitting around a small table in their painfully desolate ‘office’ drinking chy with the stern look of HA in a picture frame watching us-survey says HA would have approved. Eventually working up the courage, the young men shyly asked if we would pose for pictures-figuring that a portrait swap was the perfect way to build cross cultural relations/understanding (etc. etc) we posed for mobile portraits, flashing our best pearly whites. Azra and I have portraits of the 2 young men, they are 21 and 25, both had never met a German or American before, they look much older, they try to look stern, but eventually crack smiles-they beg us to not leave, but we do, to the sound of ’Sag ol! at our backs, we make a graceful exit that is nearly ruined by a banshee Kamaz driver…

eye candy while you wait.

September 2, 2009

BusStops 004


  Color from the BusStops on the Goychy-Ming. Yol.

(Lomo prints posted here in Dec.)










BusStops 008


BusStops 012










BusStops 016


BusStops 024








BusStops 029


BusStops 059


BusStops 073












BusStops 089


BusStops 113







BusStops 130









BusStops 088

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