Journeys – Snakebox

Paul Close’s Snakebox is a great example of how travel photography can be of documentary nature. Close travels through Northern Africa and takes one photograph a day in the same style, asking the same question to a sitter and through that is able to bring a consistency that accentuates the differences, similiraties and struggles in culture, environment and personal lives.

Each photograph is taken on a different location, that is shown on the map below the image. We see a sitter standing in front of a white background, that is placed in the environment Close happened to be in. This environment changes according to his travels, from desert to jungle and in between. The sitters change along. They are not always people who live there, but all seem to be part of the place they are in. The sitters hold or are close to something personal. This juxtaposes with the environment they’re in and gives clues about personality and social economic status.

The overall set shows that how deeper inland and isolated the locations are, the more basic the needs become. Rain, food, health care compared to a new car or a big house. There is a strong documentary voice that shows the diversity of Africa, the landscape and people, accentuated through the systematic photographic method that is used in each photograph. I think that the combination of text and image, together with a well thought out, carefully executed idea of working make this work a documentary piece, they go way and beyond the tourist gaze and show a deep interest in and eagerness to connect with the people that are photographed.

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