Olivia Arthur | The Middle Distance

Country of origin: United Kingdom
Project location: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia.
Program: Inge Morath Award
Year: 2007

Five countries lie across the border between Europe and Asia: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia. The project focuses particularly on young women, looking at a stage in life when they have to make decisions between education, work and family. I feel that the opportunities and restrictions on young women at this stage is a huge indicator of the society they live in.

My interest in this subject began while I was working as a freelance photographer in India. Originally I hadn’t wanted to work on stories about women, but as I travelled the country on other assignments, I continually found myself coming into contact with women trodden down by the society around them.

I found myself increasingly wanting to cover these issues. But the western audience that sees my work views India as a far away backward place and isn’t surprised to see images of women struggling for their rights. Similarly, I grew to feel that there was a misunderstanding in the places that I worked of what women represented in my country.

I had the idea to look for a meeting point, a crossover between this culture and the one that I had grown up with. I decided to go to the border between Europe and Asia and see if it could offer some answers to this cultural divide between East and West. My project is called The Middle-Distance and it is an attempt to find a place that can offer an explanation to both sides of the equation.