Saturday, 24 January 2009

One Step Beyond

Some time ago, when reviewing a tome called "Photo Art" (that left me with rather mixed feelings), I came across the German photographer Lukas Einsele whose work on the victims of landmines ( impressed me. Here is how he introduces his project:

"One Step Beyond - The Mine Revisited (OSB) is an artistic project that tells of landmines and of landmine survivors and their visible and obvious relationship to one another.

People who have been injured by landmines recall their experiences for OSB and describe the course of events surrounding their accidents. Some of them have made drawings of the places where their accidents occurred.

Following our conversations, I took portrait photographs of them with a large-format camera, and in exchange for their accounts they were given a Polaroid version of the portrait."

The first portrait shows Celestina Hashihali, a 35-year-old mother of five from Cangumbe, Angola, who lost her right lower leg on 27 September 2000. What the picture shows is her face, you can't see her body. By the way, a portrait does not necessarily mean an image of a face or a head, it can also show a full body - as I was once taught at a photo exhibition in Merced, California.

The incredibly powerful photo of Celestina's face, together with her story, touched me deeply.
The night before she stepped on the mine, she had a dream "... a corpse was brought to me on a stretcher. I saw how afraid I was, and how I tried to run away from the dead. I woke up and was deeply shocked ... we walked towards the village, then I was lifted into the air - whooo! And I was dashed down - shocking! Then I was baffled when I looked down at my leg - my foot was missing!
Then I said, 'Eeeh, that's why I dreamt about a dead pregnant woman, whose innards were hanging out to here. I was dreaming about myself.' The others were upset that I hadn't said anything earlier. They said, 'If you had told us that, we would have forced you to stay at home and saved your life.'"

One could have hardly thought of a more telling portrait to introduce this moving and impressive tome.

Lukas Einsele: One Step Beyond, Hatje Cantz, Stuttgart

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