A visual meditation on civilization, On the Route to Ruins: From Baalbek to Bukhara explores Mediterranean and Eurasian regions haunted by conflict and foreign subjugation through a series of atmospheric documentary photographs. I set out in winter and spring of 2018 to begin cataloguing old sites of power and religion from the Levant to the Silk Road in Central Asia. On this long, solo trip—the first of several to come in the following years—I journeyed from the ancient Roman ruins in Hezbollah-run Baalbek to the castle ruins of Khorezm in the deep desert of Uzbekistan, stopping at dozens of points in-between. On the route to these ruins, I grew equally attracted to what I found on the road. It seduced me, these little bits of quotidian evidence of what communities and nations valued, their identities taking shape through motifs and activities as they transitioned out of war, old overlords and, to some degree, corruption.
As I took the photos, I sought to capture the continued potency of the old eras—the Biblical, the Socialist, the Industrial, the Mongol—as much as the strange glitter of the new. I sought, too, the relationship between the manmade and the natural. The resulting images remind me of how civilization is just a transition away from the natural world. We live always shifting back and forth along this spectrum. Via the wars and ruination that will come certainly in the future, civilizations will fall back into the materiality that spawned it: the rocks and the ice and the acres of sand. And then others will repeat the journey in their fashion, discovering the ruined souvenirs of what was important to us, and perhaps finding what matters to their own contemporary worlds along the way.
The Peregrinations will continue. In the summer of 2018, I will return first to the mountains of Georgia with a Georgian political activist to document the shifting border with Russia, then head to the mountain teashops of Azerbaijan that recall my childhood in central Kentucky, initiating a meditation on the meaning of family rituals and retreats in two rural communities halfway around the world from one another. In the opening months of 2019, I will travel solo during the winter and spring, exploring further both the Middle East and Central Asia once more.