19 May 2007

Focusing Documentary

I find it fascinating how photographers seem to coordinate on this or that subject. For instance, on a couple of occasions I've noted in posts [1] [2] how in the mid-1980s Sebastião Salgado, Alfredo Jaar, and Miguel Rio Branco all photographed at the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil. I've recently noticed a similar example, the ecological devastation of the Aral Sea (on the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan)in Central Asia. The sea (which once was the 4th largest inland body of water in the world) is basically drying up, having lost roughly two-thirds of its volume and surface since the mid-1960s, due to misguided irrigation policies implemented by the Soviets. (They diverted the rivers that fed into the sea for the purpose of irrigating cotton fields.)

Muynak, on the shores of the Aral Sea © Dieter Telemans / Panos Pictures

Belgain photographer Dieter Telemans produced a project called "In Search of the Missing Sea" parts of which appeared in PRIVATE (#34, Autumn 2006). You can find parts of the series here too. Telemans took the picture I've lifted here at Muynak, Uzbekistan which was once a small sea-side city that now is located approximately 100 Kilometers from the shore.

Dry seabed, near Barsakelmesh Island, Aral Sea © Radek Skrivanek

Radek Skrivanek, a young Czech-born American photographer based in San Francisco, has produced a similar series entitled "Aral Tengzei - Story of a Dying Sea." You can find a short story on his project here at Open Democracy.

I suppose this is might just be more of what Geoff Dyer notes in his The Ongoing Moment (about which I've posted on before too [1] [2]). Is it?

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Blogger Stan B. said...

I don't know if "metamorphosing themselves" would be the case here, or in some of the other instances noted. There's certain subject matter that appeals to certain photographers, ignites their imagination, and although they may not be the first one on the scene, they believe their individual insight and interpretation can: shed light on something entirely missed, portray it in its "proper" context, or just do a better damn job of it. Sometimes they're even right- and sometime the subject matter just demands various points of view...

19 May, 2007 21:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From experience I can say that accessibility and popularity within the zeitgeist also play a role in determining which subjects and locations get the attention.

Another example along these lines is the Salton Sea in California. Visually dramatic, timely, environmentally significant, and within easy driving distance of Los Angeles. Those combine to mean that many bodies of work have been made about it. Unlike the vanishing lakes above the Arctic circle, which are a little harder to get to.

15 June, 2007 08:33  

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