Journeys – Koudelka and Eskilden

Koudelka and Eskilden’s projects made a real impact on me. I notice I have prejudices against the Roma, especially after having seen the beggar maffia at work in different cities in Europe, and am confronted with this when looking at Koudelka and Eskilden’s work. All these preconceived ideas are nowhere reflected in what I see and read. Both photographers are able to show tight knit communities, who live tough lives, but show a strong connection and care for each other. It makes me realize that I have to be willing to really dive in a concept and idea in order to get good quality work, and produce images that are in line with the respect that every human being should receive.

Eskilden and Koudelka have obviously spent a lot of time with their subjects and have been able to capture intimate moments, be inside people’s homes and show intimate parts of their lives. Eskilden works quite systematically and shows through the organization and categorization of communities and countries differences and similarities between communities, making the viewer look at the work from an ethnographic point of view, even though the images do trigger deep emotions. Koudelka on the other hand, does not compare one community with the other, but deeply engages with the every day lives of his subjects, bringing a deeper layer of emotions, diversity in images and establishing a stronger connection with its subjects.

The use of colour in Eskilden’s photographs accentuate the similarities between the communities and add to the colourful painting of people whose lives balance between their own community and country they live in, inside and outside, the warmth of their homes and harshness of their environment. Koudelka focuses on a more intimate point of view, his images show a great variety of subjects, but don’t give clues about the differences in communities he is in and their similarities of the countries they’re residing Koudelka’s compositions are exceptionally strong, emphasizing the strength and liveliness of the community he is photographing.

Thinking in terms of what is documentary and what not, I’d say that both have very strong documentary value, but that Eskilden’s work brings across a more overall impression of the Roma people and Koudelka lets its viewers enter the lives of the Roma. I don’t know which has more documentary value, but it is interesting to see the different effects the approaches of these photographers have on the end result and reading of the work.

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: http://www.joakimeskildsen.com/files/texts%20pdf/05kairos.pdf [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

Jmcolberg.com. (2017). Conscientious | Review: The Roma Journeys by Joakim Eskildsen and Cia Rinne. [online] Available at: http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2008/01/review_the_roma_journeys_by_joakim_eskildsen_and_cia_rinne/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

Here, S. (2017). Book Review: “Gypsies” by Josef Koudelka. [online] Eric Kim. Available at: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2014/01/30/street-photography-book-review-gypsies-by-josef-koudelka/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

Joakimeskildsen.com. (2017). The Roma Journeys – Finland. [online] Available at: http://www.joakimeskildsen.com/default.asp?Action=Menu&Item=105 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

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.

Project Journeys – The Tourist Gaze

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I read John Urry’s ‘The Tourist Gaze’ and have been thinking about its relevance to documentary photography. The article describes how reality is experienced differently through the eyes of tourists and how the reality changes to suit to the expectations of the tourist’s gaze. I have moved around from country to country in the past 20 years and notice an distinct difference between the way I see my new home and country in the first year and later. Just as a tourist, I notice an investigation of deviance, which can reveal interesting and significant aspects of ‘normal’ societies’. 

The processes that take place when tourists look at their destinations, the conclusions they draw and expectations they have of what they will see and which image they store can be quite similar to documentary photography. Especially when there is not enough time to do research, when there are determined signs the tourist persues, there is the risk of constructing a ‘pseudo event‘ that disregards the real world outside this circumscribed world.

I think it takes experience, thorough preparation and self reflection to not fall into the tourist trap when it comes to documentary photography. Being aware of our tourist gaze is a good first step.

Urry, J. (2002). The Tourist Gaze. In: J. Urry, ed., 1st ed.