As investigations into the alleged Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev focus on their connection to Chechnya and to the region of Dagestan, where Tamerlan spent time in January 2012, we’re once again looking at photographic studies of the North Caucusus. This volatile and troubled region may be little known to many Americans, but it’s been the subject of in-depth examination by photographers including Stanley Greene, Thomas Dworzak and Davide Monteleone. They have explored not only the violence in the region, but its culture, rituals and legacy of ethnic and political tensions.
Talking about his 2012 book Red Thistle, which explores life in the Northern Caucusus, David Monteleone told PDN in 2012 that he wanted to learn more about the people in the region than he could learn from media reports about terrorist attacks and human rights abuses. The book is a collection of images he took over several years in the republics around Chechnya, including Dagestan, Abkhazia (the Georgian Republic), Ingushetia, Karachay–Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and the disputed territory of South Ossetia.
“For every work that I do, I want to show the daily life of people,” Monteleone told PDN. “Then of course I try to get a little bit deeper and try to find my own vision, but it’s my curiosity first of all.”
People he met in the region who were hospitable and welcoming, he says, but “the authorities were not.” Many of his images were shot indoors, conveying the constraints he experienced. “You have this wild, big [landscape], and at the same time the people are sort of afraid of moving, they cannot reach some places. A lot of areas are closed because of antiterrorist operations, you cannot go to the mountains because it’s forbidden because of military operations … [The people] are restricted in a way, in the mind and physically.”
You can read Monteleone’s full interview in “Disputed Territories: Exploring Life in the Northern Caucuses” on PDNOnline.
* Photo, above: A woman in the Dagestan village of Gimri during the sacrifice of a bull. © Davide Monteleone/VII
Disputed Territories: Exploring Life in the Northern Caucusus
Photo Gallery: More Images from Red Thistle