Sunday, 28 October 2012

France Atlantique

I've never visited the French Atlantic Coast but have always been fascinated by it. Deauville comes to mind, because of a novel by Marguerite Duras, and the beach scenes in the movie that was based on Philippe Djian's 37.2 le matin, and Biarritz, and Capbreton (probably because both sound good in my ears) – some impressive pics of these two places can be found in this nicely done tome.

The photographs are in black and white and most of them are devoid of people, thus emanating a somewhat eerie and strangely unreal atmosphere. It's of course to do with the light but not only. The more time I spent with these pics, the more I felt intrigued by the angles that Marco Paoluzzo decided to choose – it is the framing that make these images so special. Take for example the pic on pages 82 and 83 that shows the rugged Cõtes d'Armor of Locquémeau taken in 2011. One can see two high man-made poles "polluting" this wild and seemingly untouched part of the coast and I suppose most photographers would have chosen an angle that would have avoided having them in the pciture ... but it is precisely these two poles that my eyes constantly return to and that make me perceive this coast in most unexpected ways. Needless to say, I have no idea whether Marco Paoluzzo had in mind what I'm reading into this picture yet this is the fate of all photographs: they become independent of the photographer: once out there, the readers do with them whatever they please.

Marco Paoluzzo's France Atlantique is introduced by Pierre Rouyer who writes: "Sand, pebbles, dunes, cliffs, estuaries, the rhythmic beat of the backwash, the coming and going of the tides, the piercing cries of the birds as they sweep into the sea spray. And on the fringe of this wild grandeur, man's ever-growing presence is signalled by the abundance of roads and built-up places. When you arrive at the seashore from inland, you first see a landscape of harbour cities, seaside resorts and silent towns. Yet the sprawling mass of saltwater is very close. You can make it out when you look at the sky. Something in the shapes and movements of the clouds and a certain brilliance of the light herald the end of terra firma."

I find this a perceptive, thoughtful and very apt introduction to Paoluzzi's Atlantic pictures for it helps me, by giving my mind contemplative directions, to see them once again anew.

Marco Paoluzzo
France Atlantique
Benteli Verlag
Bern - Sulgen - Zürich, 2012

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Brasilien: Der Tanz in den Wohlstand

2006 war ich zum ersten Mal in Brasilien, drei Monate erkundete ich per Bus den Nordosten des Landes. 2008 und 2009 arbeitete ich dann als Englischlehrer in Santa Cruz do Sul, einer Stadt mit 120'000 Einwohnern, zwei Stunden von Porto Alegre. Seither begeistert und bewegt mich dieses Land. Weshalb ich denn auch sofort ein paar Bücher dazu empfehlen will: 'Das Rauschen der Welt' von Rainer Fabian; A 'Death in Brazil' von Peter Robb; 'Tent of Miracles' von Jorge Amado; 'Brasil. Um País do Futuro' von Stefan Zweig; 'Brasil para principiantes' von Peter Kellemen und 'Communicating with Brazilians: When Yes means No' von Tracy Novinger. Bei all diesen Büchern spürte ich eine ansteckende Brasilien-Begeisterung, die dem 'Brasilien-Du' leider abgeht.

Vielleicht hätte mich bereits der Untertitel skeptisch machen sollen, denn in den Wohlstand tanzt niemand, nirgendwo, auch nicht in Brasilien. Oder das Inhaltsverzeichnis, dem ich entnehme, dass, abgesehen von der Einleitung von Oliver Prange, gerade einmal zwei Autoren Texte beigetragen haben: Alex Gertschen und Peter K. Wehrli. Gertschen ist promovierter Historiker, berichtete von 2007 bis 2011 für die NZZ aus Mexiko-Stadt und so schreibt er auch: informativ, detailliert und leblos. Die Texte hätten überall, wo es ein gutes Archiv gibt, geschrieben werden können. Von der Lebendigkeit, die Brasilien ausmacht, spürte ich so ziemlich gar nichts.

Peter K. Wehrlis Texten merkt man hingegen die Brasilien-Faszination an, vor allem seinem langen Aufsatz mit dem schönen Titel 'Die sinnliche Zivilisation Brasiliens  wo das Grün grüner, das Rot röter und das Blau blauer ist', worin er unter anderem von Jorge Amados Besuch im Zürcher Niederdorf und von Cendrars' als Lehrmeister der brasilidade berichtet. Bei Wehrlis beiden anderen Texten – 'Kunst vor Ort: die neue Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro' und 'Inseln der Hoffnung –  die Fundación Avina setzt auf Ökoeffizienz' – konnte ich mich jedoch des Eindrucks nicht erwehren, es handle sich um Auftragsarbeiten des Industriellen Stephan Schmidheiny (in beiden Texten kommt er prominent vor). Damit soll keineswegs etwas gegen das beeindruckende Engagement Schmidheinys in Lateinamerika gesagt werden, doch wirkt die Themengewichtung bei diesem extrem vielfältigen Land verblüffend fantasielos. 

Und dann sind da noch die Fotos. Sie stammen von Fotografen der Agentur Noor: Francesco Zizola, Andrea Bruce und Kadir van Lohuizen. Angesprochen haben mich vor allem die Aufnahmen Zizolas zum 'Treibstoff vom Acker' sowie die Schwarz/Weiss Bilder van Lohuizens vom '(echten) wilden Westen' - da konnte ich dieses gewaltige, mich staunen machende und in seinen Bann ziehende Land fühlen.

DU Oktober 2012
Der Tanz in den Wohlstand

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Nadav Kander

Copyright @ Nadav Kander

Photographer Nadav Kander was born in 1961 in Tel Aviv and grew up in South Africa. His photography, he says, attempts to do what good art does: to make the viewer think himself into what he is looking at in order to have something stirred that needn't have anything to do with the actual photograph.

stern Fotografie Nr. 69 features landscapes, portraits, and bodies; we also get to see two pictures by Felicity McCabe of the photographer at work. stern-Artdirector Johannes Erler characterises Kander's portraits as "of such contrived artificialness that, at first glance, you hardly recognise the people he has portrayed. e.g. Robbie Williams – only to understand them, moments later, better than before." Not sure about that. Moreover, quite some people (see David Lynch above) are easily recognisable. On the other hand, how does one bring the many disparate portraits in this tome under one roof? Well, why should that be necessary anyway?
Copyright @ Nadav Kander

 I felt especially attracted by Kander's landscape shots that Johannes Erler describes as "stage-managed, although he takes nothing away from them nor adds anything to them. But by apparently observing them for so long, he manages to distil their essence in both artistic and factual terms." I must admit I'm a bit at a loss in regards to such ponderings. The essence of a landscape? To me, Kander's landscapes radiate something surreal; human beings, when present, seem to disappear into the vastness of space. It is the spaciousness that Kander managed to capture that I find so remarkable, it filled me with a sense of awe.
Copyright @ Nadav Kander

The third section of this well-done tome shows bodies painted white. On most of them their faces are turned away from the viewer. Kander elaborates: "So they're there, and they're not there – and that reflects the melancholy in us ... The vulnerability through form is what I'm seeking to show ..." Does he succeed? To my mind, he does.

"In Kander's pictures the world is a collection of strange places and people", comments editor Jochen Siemens. Taken with an exceptional eye and a keen sense for proportion, I feel like adding.


stern Fotografie Nr. 69 includes Talent Booklet 02 featuring Katja Mayer who is introduced by Nadav Kander: "It becomes more about what lies behind the lens than what is in front, and that is what I like very much about this work." Curious? Check her work out at

Nadav Kander
stern Fotografie Nr. 69

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ghosts by Daylight

Janine di Giovanni, born in New Jersey, a former senior correspondent for The Times, is contributing editor for Vanity Fair. I've read, and was impressed by, some of her reports from war zones, hence my interest in this memoir.

"Ghosts by Daylight" is, on the one hand, the story of an amour fou that di Giovanni calls "Love affair with Bruno, 1993-2009" although I didn't come away with the impression that this love is over: "And he sends me messages that no one else would understand. What do the messages say? They are always about love, but a certain kind of love. They are always about destiny, fate, surrendering. Redemption." On the other hand, it is a book about the author's fascination (and addiction to?) war. She does not really elaborate on why she seems to like spending time in war zones (she does however a convincing job describing it) but claims that: "War did not frighten me; cocktail parties in London, offices in New York, and checking my bank account frightened me."

How come she decided to terminate the love affair with Bruno Girodon, a French cameraman? "Long ago, when I met him, I knew Bruno was like Ulysses. He would roam the earth but would always yearn for home and mourn those whom he loved. But when he finally reached the home he wanted and needed, he would pace like a wounded tiger in a cage. He could not settle. He could not be settled. He had tried because of how much he loved me, and his son. But it was impossible, and it was killing me, and it was killing him to try." This not only describes Bruno Girodon, this also describes Janine di Giovanni.

After two or three years trying to live a regular life in Paris, she gets a call from a doctor at Val de Grace, a military hospital: "'I wanted to tell you,' she said, 'that I'm here with your husband and I am keeping him here under orders for several weeks.' When I asked why, she said it was her belief that he was exhausted and suicidal." Bruno finds help in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, Janine tries to come to grips with addiction: "The relationship one has with drugs or alcohol or whatever it is that takes you into another realm – addiction – is something I struggled to understand. I had tried everything in my life, but nothing ever caught me in its grip." In time, she felt like AA was taking her husband from her. "I knew it was keeping him sober, but I was not sure, as someone had told me, that it was not one addiction replacing another." And if so? One of the two is killing you, the other helps you to live. Moreover, when Luca, Janine's and Bruno's son, was six months old, Janine would go back to Baghdad, leaving him with his father and his nanny in Paris. "My breasts leaked milk and I missed my baby with a ferocity that I could not understand." She flies back to Paris. And, quite some time later, to Afghanistan ... In June 2012, she reported for the Daily Beast from war-torn Syria. To me, that sounds pretty much like an addiction to war zones.

This "memoir of war and love" is also a book about war reporting. About fighting in Côte d'Ivoire she writes: "At 6 a.m., the phone rang. It was the foreign desk of CNN in London. 'What's going on down there?' someone shouted down the crackling line. 'We are hearing news of a coup, we are hearing news of another war ...'. I got on the phone and did a live report about not knowing what was going on, but describing the scenes on the street, the fear, the disorientation, the feeling in the air shortly before a country blows sky high." CNN, by the way, when it comes to giving fellow journalists a ride in their armoured cars, has  "the reputation of not helping anyone but their own. The BBC people, however, were more generous ...".

"Ghosts by Daylight" is a moving, informative, and very personal book (although I thought the parts elaborating on the author's pregnancy overly long {women readers might see that differently}); I highly recommend it, not least, because of insights such as this: "But do we ever see things that we really don't want to see?"

Janine di Giovanni
Ghosts by Daylight
A Memoir of War and Love
Bloomsbury, London 2011