Clockwise from above: Men take part in a wrestling match in the Republic
of Dagestan; a monument in memory of Imam Shamil, a hero of the Islamic
resistance in the Caucasus; a woman in the Dagestan village of Gimri
during the sacrifice of a bull.
Monteleone explains. “Then of course I try to get a little bit deeper and try to find my own vision, but it’s my curiosity first of all.”
In 2007 he went to work exploring the culture of Chechnya
and its neighboring republics, including Abkhazia (the Georgian
Republic), Dagestan, Ingushetia, Karachay–Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and the disputed territory of South Ossetia.
Since then Monteleone has spent several years photographing in the Caucasus, and his images of the daily lives and traditions of peoples living in the region have been widely recognized.
He received an Emerging Photographer Grant from the online
magazine Burn in 2010 and an Aftermath Project Grant in 2011.
Also in 2011, Monteleone won the European Publishers Award for
his work, and the resulting book, Red Thistle, will be released this
month in English by Dewi Lewis Publishing, and by four other
publishers in different languages.
Despite the recent wars in the region and a history of conflict
that stretches back centuries, Monteleone found the people of
the Caucasus friendly and hospitable, willing to invite him into
their lives. At times Monteleone was frustrated trying to make
photographs of the people he met because their stories were
“so strong,” he says. He remembers sitting with one woman
for several hours. “If you heard a mother telling you that she
lost four kids in the same morning because the federal army
arrived and decided to destroy the village, because one of the
supposed terrorists was there, what can you do with the pic-
ture?” he explains. “You take the portrait of her and you think,
‘It’s not enough.’”
Monteleone worked in the region with the journalist Lucia
Sgueglia, who contributed several essays to the book. Working
with a writer was important, Monteleone says, because she saw
things differently and helped him open his mind to different
ways of conveying what he was seeing.
In Monteleone’s images we see a woman walking near a large
river of blood from a bull sacrifice in Dagestan. We see a bride
in Ingushetia wearing a traditional gown and veil. A Georgian