Category Archives: Project 2 : Journeys


Read the interview with Cia Rinne on The Roma Journeys. Core resources :CiaRinne.pdf

Research and compare Kouldelka’s Gypsies and Eskildsen’s The Roma Journeys. Discuss aspects to do with the photographers intention and the distinctive aesthetics and approach of each body of work.

Josef Kouldelka travelled and lived amongst the Roma people between 1962 and 1971. Having developed a love of the Roma culture and music he immersed himself completely into their way of life.Living amongst the Roma and shunning material wealth Kouldelka commented ” even the gypsies were sorry for me because they thought I was poorer than them” . All of the images are monochrome and I find them quite haunting to look at , “Kouldelka depicts a landscape which has deteriorated into mud and darkness and is almost at the end of the road” (Jeffrey ,1997 p.g 252) . Musicians , children , funerals , homes , families , land and death , are all documented in grainy black and white , however ” the melancholy—–which is prevalent in Kouldelka’s work is also partly due to the socialist dreariness that reigned for decades in the Eastern Bloc ” (Stepan , 2005 , p.g 164 ) . Despite the initial bleakness I felt when reviewing the images there are moments of pure joy and happiness , Kouldelka’s close proximity to the Roma enabled him to document the Roma communities in all their rawness , “ it was the theatre of life . I didn’t need to do anything with it . everything was there . All I had to do was know how to react” (Kouldelka , p.g 258 Magnum Stories) .

Starting in 2000 photographer Joakim Eskildsen travelled with writer Cia Rinne and documented the Roma inhabitants of seven countries over a six year period. Like Kouldelka they spent extensive periods of time living amongst the Roma communities. The images , all taken using available light , are a mix of monochrome and colour recording the people , their homes , and the surrounding terrain. The colours are sumptuous , not garish, and make the images more contemporary and less brooding than Kouldelka’s whilst still managing to convey an insight into the hardships of the Roma’s existence. The long-term project became something that once started by Eskildsen and accompanied by Rinne was impossible to stop “the more we found out about the Roma and got to know them , the more our interest in and liking for them grew” .

Both photographers became assimilated into the communal lives of the Roma people they documented , by living amongst them and gaining their trust they were able to observe freely. Furthermore their respect for the Roma is evident , without this gaining access to intimate moments in the tightly knit communities would have been impossible. Kouldelka and Eskildsen had the same aim , to depict communities frequently misunderstood and viewed with mistrust and make us see beyond the prejudice , to make us care and tell their story.

References / Bibliography

Jeffrey Ian , (1997 ) .The Photo Book , Phaidon Press , London , UK

Kouldelka Josef . (2004) Kouldelka In : Boot C, ed . Magnum Stories. London:Phaidon Press Ltd pp.258-259

Stepan Peter (ed) , (2005). Icons of Photography The 20th Century , Prestel , London , UK
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Exercise: Paul Close

Look at Paul Close’s environmental portraits. Analyse his visual style and consider whether the images work as documentary photographs and , if so , why.

The Snakebox Odyssey

A series of portraits taken on his solo motorbike travels across the Sahara and Africa . His subjects stand against a plain white backdrop whilst surrounded all around by their environment , an interesting concept that I like very much. Each of his subjects were asked the same question “is there one thing that could make your life better ?” , the replies are captioned alongside the images.

What particularly strikes me about the framing of the images is how each subject is isolated from the surrounding landscape that shapes their lives yet still remain a part of it . I feel this concept initially allows the viewer to look at and consider each person as a unique individual , someone with aspirations for a better future, and with whom the viewer can empathise with , we all have dreams.

I believe they work as documentary photographs , each subject is given a ‘voice’ . The are far removed from the stereotypical holiday images that are a result of the tourist gaze , they reveal and tell us so much more .
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Exercise : The Tourist Gaze

Read the first chapter of The Tourist Gaze . Core resources :Urry_TouristGaze.pdf

Write a 200-word reflective commentary about its relevance to documentary photography.

The growth of travel and tourism has led to easy access to previously inaccessible places . Holidaying is a leisure pursuit , not an everyday experience . The tourist gaze is defined as the expectations of tourists , who having been sold the ‘dream holiday’ , expect indigenous people to behave in a preconceived manner and are seeking exciting and culturally different experiences. The tourist gaze evolves , it changes over time and differs between social groups. It is also dependant on the experiences of the observer and how far it differs from their normality. What might be defined as normal in one society may well be considered perverse in another.

Whilst benefitting financially local communities are faced with the prospect of appeasing tourism , their cultural way of life reduced to a stereotypical ideal expected of them. I am sure I am not alone in having been to a ‘staged’ performance of some sort whilst on a foreign holiday , camera at the ready to record the event. What can be seen and experienced as a tourist is frequently restricted and controlled by holiday companies , local regulations , and even by the situation of the hotel. The tourist accepts these limitations and needing proof of having been there takes the expected holiday photographs , but what do they actually tell us about the reality of the place visited ?