Taken 12 years after the war that displaced tens of thousands and made it a de facto independent state, Jonas Bendiksen’s 2005 series shows Abkhazia through the eyes of both the locals and a new wave of snap-happy tourists. It features photographs that look like they could have been taken years apart: images of bombed out apartment blocks without running water and scant electricity next to grand seaside hotels where visitors — dressed head-to-toe in holiday attire — are just checking in.

The self-declared nation of Abkhazia is little known and still considered by most United Nations member states to be a part of Georgia. After a war of secession with Georgia between 1992-93, the territory declared independence in 1999. When Bendiksen visited, it was unrecognized internationally, except by fellow breakaway states. His series offered a window into a war-torn corner of the Caucasus struggling with tragedy and isolation.

I was drawn to the ambiguity of life in a place not marked on a map

Jonas Bendiksen
© Jonas Bendiksen | Magnum Photos

Jonas Bendiksen was born in Norway in 1977. He began his career at the age of 19 as an intern at Magnum’s London office, before leaving for Russia to pursue his own work as a photojournalist. Throughout the several years he spent there, Bendiksen photographed stories from the fringes of the former Soviet Union, a project that was published as the book Satellites (2006). His sharply evocative images explore themes of community, faith and identity with unsparing honesty.

Bendiksen has made major bodies of work all over the world. He worked on many critically acclaimed long-form projects including The Places We Live, a project on the growth of urban slums across the world, and The Last Testament, which documents people who claim to be the Second Coming of Christ. Bendiksen became a nominee of Magnum Photos in 2004 and a member in 2008. He lives with his wife and three children outside Oslo, Norway.

© Jonas Bendiksen | Magnum Photos

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