Blog posts


I'll drink to that

A group of Kazakh, Uzbek and Russian friends enjoy a Sunday afternoon beside Lake Issyk in the Ili-Alatau National Park, Kazakhstan. Here, Lola and her new boyfriend Nurik down another shot of vodka.
Any outing in the former soviet union requires alcohol. Usually vast quantities of vodka, drunk straight down. It doesn't matter what it is: a birthday, a wedding, a graduation, of course, but also, a bus ride, a picnic, an interview, meeting an old friend or meeting anyone, for that matter. It is rude to refuse. Not that I don't try. In order to get this shot, I had to consume several more shots than I'd have liked. Lola grabbed me by the wrist and wouldn't let go until I had downed every drop.

Members of a Raion Election Commission in Ala Buka, Jalal Abad oblast, Kyrgyzstan, make celebratory vodka toasts after an inspection by international observers from OSCE.
It reminds me of an old photo I recently rescanned. After we grilled a group of commissioners in a remote Kyrgyz town about how they were corrupting the election, they insisted on taking us up to an isolated mountain pass. It would have been a good spot to shoot us from behind and bury us under boulders. Instead, they drank copious amounts of vodka and pressured us to follow suit.

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