CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed
The subject matter of this photo book is weighty - and so is the book itself. Featuring some 90 buildings in 14 former Soviet Republics erected in the last two decades of the-then world superpower, the collection is an important visual document of the concrete artefacts behind the communist iron curtain.
The impact of such monumental buildings can only be felt in large print and the spread format. The book's superb design and layout provide readers with space for imagination and reflection on those bygone years.
It was shot and compiled from 2003 to 2010 by Frederic Chaubin, and the Phnom Penh-born French editor-photographer seems to have been keen to detach the objects from human activities. Most buildings are shot against a desolate backdrop, generating a sense of faded glory. The empty rows of chairs (in bright red) at the Panorama cinema in Tashkent, Uzbekistan are striking, as is the Laululava stage in Estonia, which shows a lone man sitting under the gigantic hoop built for 30,000 singers. Those two images appear under entertainment/culture, one of six categories in which the pictures are presented.
In science/technology, it is almost surreal to see the former USSR's tallest television tower (at 375 metres) in Uzbekistan, rising into the sky in front of a water amusement park. In sports/youth, venues of the controversial 1980 Olympics, boycotted by the West due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, look like ghost towns devoid of human traces.
But it is the Druzhba sanatorium at Yalta, Ukraine (in the health/resorts category) that has the best anecdote. With its round shape and massive scale, the centre was once mistaken by the Pentagon for a ballistic missile launch pad. In the rites/symbols category is the most grotesque of all - an open-air memorial at Kaunas, Lithuania, built on the site of a Russian detention centre and where Germans carried out mass executions during the Holocaust.
All pictures come with brief captions in English, French and German. But no words could express the human price behind the steel and stone.Topics: Phnom Penh Oliver Chou Phnom Penh Oliver Chou Phnom Penh