“Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.” Now most of you godless lot probably won’t recognise that as Ezekiel 36:36, the biblical verse which is also the title for photographer Nick Ballon’s terrific new series.
Nick has long travelled between the UK and Bolivia, documenting facets of the South American country’s social and cultural fabric of with we would have otherwise been sadly unaware. But his latest project is his most ambitious yet, a study of the Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano, one of the world’s oldest airlines and for decades a real source of bombastic national pride in Bolivia. Sadly since it was privatised in 1994 it has slipped into decline as chronic mismanagement brought this once-great company to its knees.The remaining staff, who number only around 180 now, keep turning up day after day in the increasingly forlorn hope of some kind of salvation, or any potential windfall its final asset-stripping might lead to.
Nick’s series (named after the only LAB plane still in operation) is a brilliant documentation of this strangely fascinating story, where some 20th Century themes – technological, political and commercial – go hand-in-hand with a very timeless narrative about pride, loyalty and hope. What I really like about the images is that that although very poignant – sometimes almost painfully so – Nick doesn’t chase ham-fisted metaphorical detail. We the viewer are given the space (and the respect) to make our own connections. In fact the sumptuous book designed by StudioThomson puts all the captions at the end, allowing us time to absorb the images before we quite know what we’re looking at.
The book also includes a great inset of some of the LAB’s brilliantly retro graphics (below), wrenching readers back to consider the company in its confident pomp.
Ezekiel 36:36 is available now, and an exhibition of the work is on show at London’s KK Outlet until August 31.