Thursday, March 16, 2006
For a long time I wanted a pretext to publish on the blog this picture taken in Dubrovnik some few years ago. I found none so I just do it almost without a pretext. The recent death of Milosevic in The Hague has made many people reflect a lot over the wars in former Yugoslavia. Regardless on whom we are inclined to blame for the many unspeakable actions and policies of various sides the story most relevant is that of its many victims. Human sufferance has reached unimaginable depth in this series of conflicts dominated by primitive, violent power games. The deadly mix between simplistic ideologies, ruthless leaders, heartless politicians coupled with the lack of vision, understanding and determination on behalf of the leaders of European nations led to the most terrible all out war in Europe since the 30 year war. While indeed the vaster scale and the particularly viscous use of weapons and politics in the two world wars as well as the policies of Holocaust of Nazi Germany make for a recent background for the Yugoslav conflict, I believe the 30 year war is a closer comparison. This was possibly the last medieval war. By the scale of sufferance inflicted purposefully on civilians, the use of ethnic cleansing and fratricidal nature of the conflict throughout the wars for those endless years of killing I could not stop to think about Bertolt Brecht and his Mutter Curage. Finding, putting to trial, and sentencing those responsible for either the worst atrocities or equally those in a position to stop or avoid these is important but will remain be but a drop in the real effort to make these events impossible again. After the dreadful experience of the Second World War, with its death chambers, with millions of people dying, with the carpet bombings, and the politics of madmen receiving vast support form "civilised" people we never thought it could possibly come back so soon two haunt Europe. It did. In a fanatic and unhindered fashion. A madman's war again. We have to keep the images and stories of those dying and running away, loosing loved ones and homes, loosing identities and countries alive for a long time. We should never forget. I list here a few movies that do an excellent job at that: all of Kusturica's war movies, then PRETTY VILLAGE, PRETTY FLAME by Srdjan Dragojevic, 1996, SAVIOR by Peter Antonijevic 1998, NO MAN'S LAND.Dubrovnik was a near miss, certainly a victim it escaped all out destruction. I made this picture on film a couple of years ago and to me is a sign that things are slowly and painfully coming back. The certain serenity and quiet laziness of the image is to me in ultimate opposition with the war and it madness.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
A woman writing in the moving van. Is it about job, is it about family, herself, is it a letter?What to write about? That's it! Sometimes you just stop in front of the paper and have no clue. You want to write, but you have no idea what about, what for, whom to. It is so different from photography. Not necessarily more difficult just totally different mind set. In photography the content is there, you take it, you play with it, you shape it, you present it. Yes, as Depardon is writing, one still has to make a decision at the beginning of a photographic project: it will be about this or that, I will use this or that equipment and treatment, it will be colour or black and white, etc. In this respect every artistic project has a basic set of ideas. You need to achieve a certain minimal clarity over what those are in order to embark on the series of actions that lead to the finished product. Creative process requires it just as sometimes it requires a turnaround and renunciation, a shift in those original ideas. In writing all these are more acute, more intense, more permanent. Certainly you can start throwing words at the page the way you wander with a camera and snap. But that is not a reportage, that is not a book, that is not a story. In photography the relationship is more material, it requires and implies senses and tools. In writing it all comes form within ones-self. Why do people need so badly to write? Of course you may come up with elaborate or not psychological explanations about the desire to share, to tell it all, etc. Still there is this urge to write that is not easily matched by the ability to be honest, straightforward, simple. Because of this difficulty to express, most of us do not to write. Some do it terribly badly and are still awfully pleased about it. Others, very few, do it exceptionally well. Some struggle in between constantly doubting. Its not just a matter of style, exercise and prose. It is a matter of ideas, ideals, idiosyncrasies. Who gives a damn about your blabbering? Who could be bothered? Why would you be bothered? Do you Really believe you have something worth while telling. No it is not it. It is definitely not about relevance. I have read a few astonishingly good pieces on utterly irrelevant topics. So do you write for others or yourself? I remember somebody, it may have been the great Saul Bellow, said something about that. I do not recall his exact words but it was in the line of: it needs to be for yourself but knowing others are reading over your shoulder. The diary is a good example. I suspect one keeps it mostly for himself or herself. Still a good few diaries have ended up being famous books. I believe the same applies to blogs. I am constantly amazed how many there are and how wacky some are. Like this http://russelldavies.typepad.com/eggbaconchipsandbeans/ or this http://belledejour-uk.blogspot.com/2004_09_01_belledejour-uk_archive.html . What do I do? I guess I am only trying to unite a personal narrative with a personal perspective. I stay away form all the big subjects on purpose. No debate on cartoons, Iran, climate change here for now. I am just snapping away with that camera and write slightly off-key comments for the pictures. The result is pretty eclectic but as I am not bored yet it must have some positive value.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
This image is the one opening a book by Raymond Depardon the French Magnum photographer. The interesting part is that its in striking contradiction with all the rest of the book's images. Its like a departure, a starting point, or on the contrary, a destination known from the start. You can wonder around without those but then how do you know you wonder. How do you know that this is not a journey from point A to B dictated by your hidden or not so desires, expectations, perspectives. If, on the contrary, you know were you start and you know were you will arrive but do not give a damn about duration, route etc. then you are indeed wondering freely. Errance is a choice it is not an irrational haphazard behaviour. It is a response to the existence's intensity. Homer comes to mind but a more reflective one, no action hero here just an open mind and extraordinary eyes.
These days I am reading in bursts the wonderfully enchanting book of Frenchman Raymond Depardon titled Errance. The Magnum photographer has published several books mostly with what I call intensely structured black and white images. They call him Anti-Salgado often and I understand why. I had the usual respect and utmost deference for his work but he was never really my favourite Magnum man until I have seen his book on French (mostly) politics published last year. I was so astonished by the frank, powerful, subtle but not pretentious approach he uses that immediately I started to give more attention to what he wrote! I have yet to see his films so I wanted to know more while avoiding my instinctive avoidance of thesis prone landscape or human scape photography he seams to prefer. Reading and watching more purposefully his images I decided he is by no means an Anti-Salgado. He is screaming as loud. He is not neutral, he is not indifferent, he is precise but he is certainly not clinical in the sense of unemotional. He is more discreet. I do not agree with a lot of the stuff he writes and I often find him utterly inconsistent. He is perfectly capable to say two quite opposite things within the space of three paragraphs. Regardless, his little book published in 2000 under the title "Erance" is a photographic masterpiece. The images, his choice of material and content and the writing are the work of a master. He gives simple clear straightforward arguments to the idea of errance, of wanderlust, of solipsistic but unselfish walkaround. Its is not a diary and neither is a pretentious essay on modern society and the need/curse of contemporary solitude. There is a lot about it in the book. But there is all the sadness and its contradictory content-ness that comes with being alone. It is so powerfully honest and hartchurningly relevant that I made this little gem a favourite read. I must say that he lives no stone unturned. Family, traditions, rural life, Europe, Africa, Americas, man and woman, relationships, failure all get together seamlessly by the means of a narrative that uses "empty" spaces, desolate urban or sub-urban passage, roads, lanes, tracks, lines, ultimately all are the same: ways, connections, passages, links. Read it and tell me what you think. Here is a picture that is my homage to his book. It is part of my errance cotidiene, my endless sometimes aimless sometimes hopeful daily ritual of coming and going. But then again Depardon would probably say that errance cannot be cotidiene it has to be purposeful while unintentional in its direction. Some places are to be avoided because they intrerupt, others because they mean to much.