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Andres Gonzalez May 4, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Ohio University, Ukraine.
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Truskavets Sanatorium, Western Ukraine

Andres Gonzalez (b. 1977, United States) is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. He is originally from California where he pursued a degree in writing from Pomona College in Claremont, California – but after a two year stint in Namibia teaching environmental education and snapping pictures along the way, he realized that photography was a much more natural way for him to express his world view. He is the recipient of the Canon Italia Young Photographer’s Award in 2009, was a Fulbright Scholar in 2008. He was selected as one of PDN’s Emerging 30 photographers in 2006. His work has been published by W Magazine, Monocle, and Wallpaper among others.

About the Photograph:

“This photograph was taken in the resort town of Truskavets in Western Ukraine from a project I started back in 2006 called Sanatorium, which looks at the culture of health and healing in Ukraine. I was initially drawn to how Ukrainians who visit the springs  embrace the water’s healing qualities, but after I started making pictures I became fascinated by their history and legacy in Ukrainian culture. The history of sanatoria in the former Soviet Union goes back to the conception of the USSR itself, when mansions were seized by the Bolsheviks and converted to hospitals and clinics for the poor. Later sanatoria played an important role in healing a war-torn nation – after the Second World War the Soviet government encouraged its citizens to look inwards, both figuratively and literally through domestic travel, to explore the far-flung parts of the Union in hopes of cementing its commonality.”

“The tourism industry managed a delicate system that worked despite soviet limitations of containment, encouraging health travel as a form of leisure, all while still allowing its citizens to embrace the spirit of adventure. Sanatoria became communal places of rest where workers could receive free medical attention in between group excursions that had more patriotic motives. Stalin’s childhood home in Georgia for instance, was a popular tourist destination. What I found interesting, was that while travel agents told people what to see and how to think, it was in the sanatorium that people found an escape from the rigor and struggle of Soviet life, and perhaps this is why sanatoria maintain their appeal throughout so much of the former USSR.”

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