Editors' Note: While the news is filled with images of Ukrainian protests, Russian troop movements, tense referendums and a dizzying array of conflicting opinions and perspectives, a physical sense of the land of Crimea becomes completely forgotten. Alnis Stakle, an accomplished Latvian photographer, traveled to Crimea to document the long-coveted, long-divided region. His words, written in 2011, ring with prophetic clarity today.
"Heavy Waters" is envisioned as a study of towns and rural territories scattered on the Crimean seashore, with a special focus on the entropy of the Soviet urban environment, interspersed with splashes of the new capitalist epoch in Crimea.
Since times immemorial, the Crimean Peninsula has been coveted by different countries, near and far. Indeed, some of the bloodiest battles of the Crimean War and WWII were fought here. Since Crimea has always been a natural harbor and a crossroads for trade, it has seen great benefits to its location — and great cost.
Between the end of WWII and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Crimea was part of the Soviet Union. At that time, it grew into one of the most popular resorts in the country. A plethora of sanatoriums, health resorts and recreation centers were built and the prominent functionaries of the Communist Party acquired real estate there. Today, Crimea remains a prestigious holiday destination; for example, Vladimir Putin owns a villa on the peninsula's shores.
The economic situation in modern Crimea has undergone radical changes since the area's Soviet heyday. As many of the sanatoriums and health resorts are now closed, Crimea's economy has suffered. Outside of tourism, the peninsula doesn’t have strongly developed industries that provide the locals with steady employment opportunities. Oftentimes, the only source of income is renting out flats to tourists in the summer.
—Alnis Stakle, 2011
Editor's Note: Alnis Stakle's work will be featured in our upcoming exhibition in London,31 Contemporary Photographers: LensCulture Exposure Awards. The exhibition opens on April 1 at the London College of Communication. Be sure to join us for the opening party on April 3 at 6 pm.