Anthropology is a wide field – it encompasses the hallucinogenic adventures of Carlos Castaneda with the Yaqui shaman Don Juan, the rules of kinship of some tribe in the South China Sea as well as the linguistic peculiarities that Daniel Everett discovered when he lived for seven years among the Pirahã in Amazonia. Visualizing such diverse and varied phenomena demands a thoughtful approach to picture taking (which, by the way, isn’t the rule) that starts with the photographer first thinking about the information he wants to convey.
As unique and special the scenes are that the photographers for this issue have chosen to focus on, the similarities (what we have in common, what we share) that can be found around the globe are striking.
Had I not been told, I would not have guessed that the pictures of every day life from Haiti’s countryside, taken just two weeks after a devastating earthquake, were taken there – some place in Africa seemed equally probable. I would have also not imagined that there are Sardinian shepherds who hail from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia – once again an aspect of the global world that baffled me. What also surprised me was how the verses “participating in the idea of similarity, sensible things become similar” were illustrated by a series titled “Tales of the River Lebe” in Mali.
I felt especially drawn to the pics of Philadelphia’s suburban landscape, aptly described as “hovers between collapse and regeneration, decay and possibility” and very different from the colorful suburbs and villages in and around Hanoi (to which I felt likewise drawn) that radiate, among other things, the Prussian work ethic typical for the Vietnamese.
As different as the geographical settings and themes are – from looking back to what people had been through in Kosovo to the transformation of the Belgian village Doel and its surroundings; from aspects of nightlife on the Reeperbahn (Hamburg’s red-light district) to student fraternities in Germany; from the fate of Chechen refugees in Warsaw to Romania’s immensely rich Danube Delta biosphere; from people’s struggle with the floods that ravage Bangladesh each year to a Kalahari previously not seen (my favourite pics of all are the two first ones in blue) ; from stories of today’s Romania to exploring daily life of the Bedouin minority in the Negev; from the Rom ghetto in Croatia to post-nuclear Chernobyl (“Modern life is war,” one ex-coalminer said. “Constant struggle, no clear purpose.”) – there seems to be a particular (and at times gloomy) understanding of the world (with few exceptions, the photos show individuals on their own and not as members of groups) that all photographers, in my initial reading, appeared to share: we are alone, on our own, and lost. Yet the more time I spent with these photos, the more I also seemed to sense a determination, a strength, a defiance in the people portrayed – they don’t run from life, they confront it, and this is what unites them. (Hans Durrer)
- Alessandro Toscano, New Shepherds in Sardinia, Italy
- Alex Tomazatos, Homeland
- Antonia Zennaro, Down There
- Daniel Traub, Philadelphia
- Donald Weber, Bastard Eden, Our Chernobyl
- Guido Gazzilli, Fisnik
- Isabelle Pateer, Unsettled
- Kirk Ellingham, Four Floors in Bielany: Chechen Refugees in Warsaw
- Lene Münch, The Secret World of Fraternities
- Martin Errichiello, Tales of the River Lebe
- Matteo Bastianelli, The Rom Ghetto
- Monirul Alam, The People’s Struggle
- Nadia Shira Cohen, Exodus
- Nicola Lo Calzo, Comeback to Kalahari
- Silvia Boarini, Bedouin Land
- Tamas Paczai, Dream about Motherland
- Tessa Bunney, Home Work