In 2007 and 2008, Nick Hannes travelled across the former Soviet Union by bus and train. For a period of four seasons he journeyed in search of remnants of the region's Communist past and signs of recent social transition and evolutions in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Moldavia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
Within the ex-Soviet Union, nostalgic sentiment is never far away. Not so much because it was better in the old times but because it was at least experienced as better than what is offered in the present. When Hannes, in Moldavia, asked the media photographer Nicolae Pojoga how long he figured the transition phase would go on for his country, the latter was brief and concise in his response "Nothing is more persistent than the temporary".
Yet, to say that the former Soviet Union has become uniformly wrapped inside a depressing shroud of grey haze is telling only a half-truth. In Siberia, there is sunshine. Many people sincerely believe in the prospects for a better future. These contrasts, telling of extreme wealth in the midst of gut-wrenching and heart-rending poverty, images of modern day dictators like golden calves surrounded by the remnants of faded glory, run like a persistent red thread throughout the story of "Red Journey". In suburban districts, deprived neighbourhoods bordering train stations, on beach fronts and fairy grounds, the photographer is searching for tableaux that break through the mould that forms the stereotype image of the region. Nick Hannes has an eye for surprising details that assail and tear down clichés, and for gripping as well as absurd scenes. With wondering and, at the same time, engaged perception, he often manages to depict preposterous contrasts that seem to determine daily public life in the ex-Soviet Union nations.
Nick Hannes (Antwerp, 1974) is a freelance photographer and guest lecturer at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. A series of photos from his "Red Journey" has this year been awarded with the Nikon Press Photo Award 2008.
As a complement to the photographic exhibition, visitors can purchase the book of similar title ‘Red Journey'. It is published by the Publishing House Lannoo. This book is for sale at the Museum Shop at the price of € 29,95