Instagram + Abkhazia | Roads & Kingdoms

Roads & Kingdom -- Instagram is the billion-dollar dollar buzzchild of social media and mobile photography. Abkhazia is a wartorn breakaway republic on the Black Sea where, at least when I visited there last year, people were far more likely to have a Kalashnikov in their home than a camera-phone. The two would seem like strange bedfellows.

And yet, behold: Instabkhazia, a new project dedicated to Instagram pictures of Abkhazia. Metin Sönmez, 33, a London-based webmaster and aficionado of all things Abkhaz (he’s Circassian, ethnic cousins to the Abkhaz people, and he runs hatched the project this spring with Kan Taniya, an Abkhaz student living in Italy. The mission: create a reservoir of images from one of Europe’s most forgotten corners.

It’s not a large project, nor has it been around for very long. But it immediately raised some controversy—typical for Abkhazia, land of strife, stuck in a long and bitter “peace” with its neighbor Georgia, with whom it fought a war of secession twenty years ago. The controversy here was from an Italian journalist, Giorgio Comai, who quickly accused the site of censoring the photos. “Instagram filters aren’t the only ones used by the editors of the site,” he wrote. “Up to now, their images do not have any trace of the semi-destroyed and abandoned buildings that… continue to characterize [Abkhazia]”.

Sönmez, for the record, told me that he and Taniya don’t censor, that they’d as happy to show destroyed buildings as anything else. But the Abkhaz, he says, just don’t take pictures of their ruins. “People want to just see Abkhazia from their eyes,” he says. Which means mostly taking pictures of the things that the Abkhaz believe define their country: beach, mountain, forest.

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