Elliott Verdier stumbled upon Kyrgyzstan by chance, noticing it for the first time while staring at an old map.
Somewhat thrown by the fact that he hadn’t been aware of the country’s existence until that very moment, he thought it only right to research its history. However, the more he learned, the more mysterious Kyrgyzstan served to become: a fledgling state of sublime natural beauty, where post-soviet history found itself entangled with a fluctuating national identity in the present day. Quickly, the French photographer became fascinated.
So, last year, Verdier decided to fly out and make the trip for himself. Spending four months travelling through the country, he made his way through bustling cities, secret towns in the shadow of mountains and then out to great mines, which seemed to exist miles and miles away from anything else.
“I think I will always remember the first time I arrived in Kyrgyzstan,” he tells Huck. “It was dawn. The soft pink light of the rising sun was touching the wall of mountains in the south of Bishkek. It was all quiet. Everything there seemed eternal.”
During his journey, Verdier quickly began to notice the generational gap that existed between the country’s youth and its elderly population. Whereas the latter were still very much enamoured with Kyrgyzstan’s Soviet past, its young people were, in contrast, pushing for a distinctly more modern collective national consciousness.
During the time he spent with them, elders would warmly recall an easier, “more organised” time prior to sovereignty in 1991, while the new generation of Kyrgyz spoke of their ambitious determination to truly “put Kyrgyzstan on the map”.
The photos that Verdier took during his journey come together to form A Shaded Path, a series that tracks his movements through the young state and the interactions with the people he met there. As a collection of images, they portray a country in a state of cultural flux, where different factions – old and young, East and West – can be seen battling it out for the national hegemony.
“The people in the pictures are very diverse. I’ve spent hours with veterans, nights with young people; men and women in coal mines; fishers, hunters,” he recalls.
“But the more I met young people, the more I saw the growing dynamic, the pure envy and motivation to make their country rise. Dreamers, but connected to reality, too.”
See more of Elliott Verdier’s work on his official website.