‘A Road Not Taken’ on New Yorker Photo Booth

“About an hour’s drive south of Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius, the country’s narrow panhandle, locally known as the “appendix,” starts to push into the countryside of neighboring Belarus. The joke in Lithuania is that, while drawing the borders of the region, Stalin set his pipe down on the map—no one was brave enough to move it, so improbable borders were drawn around its perimeter. But while the boundaries between Soviet republics were fluid, today this sliver of Lithuania, known by the name of its largest town, Dieveniškės, is separated by security fences from Belarus, with its entrenched Soviet ways, and by awkward geography from the relative progress of the rest of Lithuania. With its scattering of tumbledown villages, many of whose residents speak a mix of Polish and Belarusian, the region lives according to its own rhythms.

The German-American photographer Jasper Bastian captures this peculiar state of isolation in his series “A Road Not Taken,” which he shot during several visits to Dieveniškės last year. The project, which is ongoing, focusses on small towns bisected by the international border, which is open only to visa-holders. Although Lithuanian citizens who live near the border have access to special travel visas, many can’t afford them, and so are cut off from family members on the other side. Residents hunker down and make do amid rolling hills and uneven forests that Robert Frost would probably find familiar.”

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