Anyone who’s traveled in the vast open spaces of Central Asia has heard it, or seen it plastered on roadside monuments punctuating long stretches of highway: Ak Jol in Kazakh and Kyrgyz and Oq Yol in Uzbek. “White Road.” It means something like “safe journey” or “have a good trip.”
The refrain, which is the title of this new book, marks the places in-between, the places where photographer Ivan Sigal found himself constantly between 1998 and 2005 – a traveler in a region on the move, a region searching for work, and meaning, in a vacuum as wide as the steppe.
Working in the liminal spaces blown open by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sigal blurred the line between artist and documentarian, offering an intimate portrait of a changing region. At times the images are sharp, sunlit and full of hope. Others are melancholic, even tipsily blurry, and full of tension.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor. Full disclosure: He has known Sigal since 2002, worked with him in Afghanistan, and has had the pleasure of seeing him shoot on several occasions.