Laurent Hazgui is a French freelance photographer. Last week, he told me about his road-trip in Caucasus. From 2008 to 2011, he covered the frozen conflicts. He took pictures of people’s daily life in these blur areas unrecognized by international law. A premonitory situation for Crimea, Ukraine.
Laurent Hazgui was born in 1977. He is a French independent photographer. He studied Social and Economic Administration at Paris Sorbonne before doing his Master’s in Journalism at Aix-en-Provence. He takes pictures with a Canon EOS D5 mark 3. Today, he is partnered with photo agency Divergences Images. His work about “frozen conflicts” questions the future of Ukraine.
To see more pictures, have a look at the portfolio.
Wait… “Frozen” what?
In international relations, a frozen conflict is a situation in which an active armed conflict has been brought to an end but no peace treaty or other political framework can solve the conflict.
…Need a reminder?
Transnistria won its independence from Moldavia in 1990 and was occupied by Russian troops from 1992.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia: these two Georgian separatist regions claimed their independence from Georgia in 1992 and were partially occupied by Russia from 1992 before being totally occupied since 2008.
About Nagorno-Karabakh: this landlocked region is located in the South Caucasus, lying between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It claimed its independence in 1991 but remains unrecognized.
About your career
I started to work at Liberation as an archivist. It was the opportunity for me to read the newspaper for free every day! One day, I read an article about a new Master in journalism at Aix-en-Provence. I applied and I got selected; this student job at Liberation was a key moment, it changed my life. Later, I applied to a photography course to specialize in photojournalism.”
About Eastern Europe
“I have always been interested in this area, my mum is from Poland. At Liberation, I was reading every article written by correspondents settled in Eastern countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was fascinated by the situation in Kosovo, in 1999: I even covered its independence in 2008. My first international photography reporting was in Chernobyl, Ukraine.”
I have always been fascinated by Eastern Europe… Probably because my mum is from Poland
About “Frozen conflicts”
“I started this project in 2008. For three years (2008-2011) I focused on four separatist regions in Caucasia that were stuck between two different countries”
The current situation in Crimea, Ukraine, reminds me of these regions. I am afraid it will become a “blur area”, between Russia and Ukraine. Today, both Russia and Ukraine’s government claim Crimea but Russia effectively controls it.
About traveling in Eastern Europe
“I learned a lot in Kosovo. I learned how to tell the story of an emerging independent country. The war in South Ossetia in 2008 was the opportunity for me to go back to Eastern Europe and start a project on frozen conflicts. I wanted to cover the four conflicts and tell their people’s stories.”
I immersed myself in my subject, I spent months in these countries to understand the different situations and take them into pictures.
About covering frozen conflicts
“It was really difficult to cover these areas. To get authorizations from Russia, my friends and I said we were reporting about the pro-Russian communities and their difficulties. Russian government delivered us unlimited-access visas! We went to Transnistria, South Ossetia, Karabakh and Abkhazia.”
November 2008. South Ossetia. Tskhinvali. The Parliament was destroyed by Georgian army
On the video below, Laurent Hazgui talks about his travel in South-Ossetia.
About selecting pictures
“When I came back to France, I had so many pictures. It took me time to find homogeneity and find out how to tell a relevant story. I wanted to show the surreal situation of these countries: they seem literally frozen, like no-mans-lands. They are not officially recognized, they have no future, no project.
October 2008. Transnitria. Tiraspol. Just married couple posing next to a military tank. This memorial commemorates the secession war against Moldavia in 1992.