Monday, September 1, 2008

Jonas Bendiksen's "Satellites"

On a recommendation from a photography forum, I picked up a copy of Satellites, a book by Norwegian photojournalist Jonas Bendiksen. A chunky, affordable hardcover with distinctive glossy black page edges, the book is a striking artifact before you even open it, and it only gets better from there.

Bendiksen is quite young--he writes that he traveled to Russia in 1998, when he was twenty, and a few years later was kicked out, due to "a bureaucratic misstep." He goes on:

I spent much of the next five years traveling through the fringes of the former Soviet empire, exploring the oblique stories of half-forgotten enclaves and restless territories...I found isolated communities struggling to redefine themselves and, in the process, questioning what constitutes a legitimate claim to independence or autonomy.

Among the places he visits are a forgotten Siberian outpost to which Stalin lured Zionist Jews in the 1930's; the spaceship crash zones of Kazahkstan, where people scavenge launch debris; and the former beach resort of Abkhazia, half-destroyed in the early nineties by a war with neighboring Georgia. The photos are simply stunning--dark, sometimes out of focus, with colors wildly shifted off balance, they have a grim, eccentric force. Subjects are often pushed off to the side of the frame, foregrounded by evocative blur, or lost in backlight, yet the distortion strengthens the image, ennobles the subject. Bendiksen's emotionally direct, aesthetically oblique approach is an inspiration to me, both as an amateur photographer and a writer--a good artist should show you a new way of seeing, and this book succeeds wildly at that.

Here are a couple of pictures, swiped with the magic of Google:


Matt said...

Interesting. Thanks for showcasing this photographer's work. There's a lot made of Edward Burtynsky's studies of industrial graveyards, yet I find this person's photographs much closer to that term called "art" than what Burtynsky produces. It's a question of taste, for sure, but I enjoy the surrealistic humanity on display in these.

Ray said...

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

You're welcome! I chose those two pics because they were readily available online...but they're not really representative...most of the book is more formally adventurous. The mood is similar though. How to evoke it in fiction, I wonder?