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The Drunken Bicycle in Brattleboro

October 22, 2012

The Drunken Bicycle—Travels in the Former Soviet Union

An Exhibition by Frank Ward

Presented by the Vermont Center for Photography

At 49 Flat Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

From November 2 – December 2

Opening Friday Evening November 2 , 5-9pm for the monthly Brattleboro Gallery Walk. Please check http://www.vcphoto.org for the VCP’s daily schedule.

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Kiosk, Karakul Animal Market, Kyrgyzstan, 2012, All photos by Frank Ward

The above picture is the only image in this post that will be in the show. Below are pictures that didn’t fit.

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Lenin, Irkutsk, 2008

I first came upon a drunken bicycle in Irkutsk, Siberia. I didn’t get a good picture of it. There was a crowd and a lot of drinking, neither of which is uncommon in Siberian city parks on the weekend.

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Dance party in the park, Astana, Kazakhstan, 2012

A drunken bicycle is a conventional bike outfitted with a reverse steering gear. The owner/ operator demonstrates how easy it is to ride and awards a beer if one can travel a few meters without falling. This entertainment always attracts a crowd but, I have never seen a customer navigate the counter-intuitive bicycle successfully.

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Twins, Irkutsk, Siberia, 2010

The drunken bicycle is an apt metaphor for life in the Former Soviet Union.  The bureaucrats appear to sway on a drunken bicycle; the hapless traveler spends his days confused by the swing of it; and this photographer is continually influenced by its contradictions.

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Destruction of the Angara River waterfront, Irkutsk, Siberia, 2010

Curious pleasures accompany my confounded expectations. The security guard repeating, “I love you,” as he gestures for me to delete pictures of a destroyed habitat (above). Or the policemen who accuse me of stealing strategic military secrets because I photographed a World War II tank on display in a city park. Or the graffiti scribbled on a high school desk: “Stalin is gay.”

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Marilyn Monroe, Vladivostok, Russian Far East, 2008

The publicly dour Russians think we Americans always have a foolish grin pasted on our faces. Well, I do, but I am not laughing at the former Soviets. It is the joy of seeing a painted wall mural of Lenin blowing a kiss to Marilyn Monroe (above), or my surprise at a grandmother asking me to photograph her in a bikini at the beach (below). The FSU is a paradise of paradox, where the landscapes are limitless and the people are full of passion and pain.

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 Babushka at the beach, Odessa, Ukraine, 2005

I don’t think I’ll have room for any pictures from my trips to Ukraine in 2001 and 2005.

All readers are invited to the opening so please come if you can.

Otherwise, the VCP Gallery is only open on Fridays and Saturdays 1-6 and Sundays 11-3.

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