Archive

self-published photobook

1. Unfinished Father by Erik Kessels, published by RVB is a personal book about his father’s ‘hobby’. A beautiful theme, a graceful way of parting, by way of experiencing his meticulous proceedings, by feeling and smelling the environment, the tools and objects, and roaming the workshop. Erik’s father suffered a stroke and left his work in progress: restoring a Fiat 500, ‘a vero Topolino’, unfinished. The reflection on and dedication to the project and the olds mobile itself were meticulously exhibited in Reggio Emilia last summer.

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2. Find a Fallen Star by Regine Petersen, is published by KHERER Verlag. This is how the conversation with Regine starts:

I have never done a preparation for an interview in this way: I was leafing through your recently published ‘triptych’ Find a Fallen Star (2015), and enjoyed the ‘narrative’, or the lack of it, so much; I like your ‘style’. I made a random choice of pages, events, names from this poetic constellation, if I may call it so, your book project Find a Fallen Star, as the narrative unfolds and I discover links between pictures, documents, oral history and events.

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3. The Chinese Photobook From the 1900s to the Present curated by WassinkLundgren and Martin Parr, is published by Aperture. Ruben Ludgren is a gateway to China, he lives and works in Beijing. I feel so ignorant on the topic, that also counts for ‘the Japanese photobook from the 1900s to the present’ but this helps: a handbook which incorporates “an unprecedented amount of research and scholarship”.

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4. Alec Soth, The Song Book, published by MACK celebrated a second printing of the first edition in no time. There is always something innocent and childish about Alec’s work. His website reads and looks like a children’s book. “My name is Alec Soth (rhymes with ‘both’). I live in Minnesota. I like to take pictures and make books. I also have a business called Little Brown Mushroom.” The Song Book has that allure too. The manipulated documentary is about the artifice of social change, about ‘meeting’ and the absence of human interaction in the era of digital social networks.

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5. Thomas Sauvin’s SHUANGXI (Until Death Do Us Part)published by Jiazazhi Press in a first edition of 1000, contains found photographs compiled in a miniature booklet shaped in the form of a pack of cigarets showing Chinese marriage smoking ceremonies. This is about the most absurd book in my collection: in terms of photographic theme and in terms of book technical solutions. I received it wrapped in a spread from the Shanghai Business Daily from 2014.12.23. I saved it. All these photographs are selected from the Silvermine Archive. I bought a signed copy for 28.00 EUR and 3.90EUR shipping costs, through Kominek.

It reads:

Until Death Do us Part focuses on the unexpected role cigarettes play in Chinese weddings. As a token of appreciation, it is customary for the bride to light a cigarette for each and every man invited. The bride and the groom are then invited to play  some cigarette-smoking games of an unprecedented ingenuousness. This publication pays homage to a tradition in which love and death walk hand in hand.

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6. Bruce Gilden’s FACE, released by Dewi Lewis Publishing is meant as a counterpart of Facebook faces. And, Oh God, do they all look wicked and weird; too real to be true. The human face as an arid landscape.

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7. You Haven’t Seen Their Faces, by Daniel Mayrit, a Riot Book, is the photobook of the year, in fact of the past 7 years. THIS IS IT, in terms of content and book technical solutions. ‘They’ are ‘nailed’. Handwritten notes by Daniel, about wages, stock index, liaisons and scandals, are scattered on, what look like, CCTV portraits. The utmost provocative artist’s strategy towards found photography (blurry surveillance camera shots from Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) – in this shortlisted book for the Best Photobook of the Year 2015 – is manifested in You Haven’t Seen Their Faces. A smart appropriation of surveillance technology to instigate photography as evidence in the current financial and economic crisis, targeting the 100 most powerful people in the City of London as criminals, assuming their guilt. The title is a wink to a survey about the desperately poor working-class people in rural America, the southern states, by Margaret Bourke-White, published in 1937: You Have Seen Their Faces. And once again, that title is partly reminiscent of a short story by Whittaker Chambers: ‘You have seen the Heads’ (1931).

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8. There is a relationship between WEALTH management and the fake Swiss WTF bank created by Carlos Spottorno in a website and a book.

This is a view of the world of the ultra-rich and their agents: a supposedly better life, where money does not always bring happiness and where the greatest luxury of all is being invisible, inaccessible, and therefore invulnerable.

It shows euphemistic pictures from the websites of UBS, HSBC, and LLoyds Bank, or an appropriated Patek Philippe swiss watches advertising campaign.  Faces of people are computer-generated into the pixelated images, into non-overlapped blocks, because face detection today is a common mechanism in security and entertainment. This time he did not appropriate the imago and features of The Economist, but a prototype of a bank brochure on ‘how to’ build wealth.The slick looking website contains fierce slogans like: ‘I have money. I just need to hide it.’ 

The crucial question remains, however: if given chance to be part of that privileged layer of society, would any of us be willing to redistribute our wealth, or would we simply tap our nose and play the game?

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9. Anders Petersen. Valparaiso is published by FIFV Ediciones. it’s a strong photographic essay carried out in 13 days, in August 2014, on Anders first visit to Latin America, during an Artist in Residence for the International Festival of Photography in Valparaiso. The booklet is just a little smaller than the classic Valparaiso by Sergio Larrain, and it doesn’t contain a poem by Pablo Neruda. It is all there: the people, the suffering, the roughness of life, the signature of Anders Petersen.

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10. (in matters of) karl, is a book by Annette Behrens and issued by Fw: Books. It’s more than a photobook, well documented and supported by a meticulous lay-out and design by Hans Gremmen. Annette hesitated to do it, being remembered of her own German roots and the history that goes with it. The screen print on the front cover leaves some ‘blood traces on the French title page. Reproductions of Polaroids are showing the picturesque Solahutte, in the year 2007. Other self-made images show the whole setting of the ‘Hocker album’ at the research department of USHMM. The personal histories and reflection on research findings by Annette, all in Courier letter font, read like a diary note or a forensic report, or both.

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11. Philip Toledano made a very personal document, after his parents died: When I Was Six. They left him a box full of personal belongings from his sister, who died an early age. The book has a pitch black linen hardcover, in a swiss binding, stitched with a light green cord. Little white dots, likes stars in the cosmos, are scattered around a hand written title. A story is arising from black matt pages, with a cold green coating on the backside, containing memories of his sister: ‘Claudia was nine, I was six’. Short personal statements in white on a black void, are hitting you like a hammer, or making you contemplate on the vastness of being and life experience. We see the baby birth facts on a perforated carton hospital card with ‘notes or recommendations’, two pages after that the printed card sent on behalf of both parents after Claudia’s death expressing their ‘appreciation for kind messages of sympathy’ by friends and family. A lock of her hair in cylophane, and handwritten letters of her ability to show empathy at such early age, her school photo in a paper envelope, handwritten captions by a parent on the back of her portraits. The tombstone design is her father’s.The book is literarily unpacking ‘nine years. into a box’. It is heart breaking, it’s amazing grace, amazing strength, I went through the book twice, I cried twice. And there is the cosmos, the infinity, to capture her soul.

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12. Christopher Williams‘ Printed in Germany (green edition) is one of three volumes, catalogues slash artist’s books if you wish, accompanying the major MOMA exhibition The Product Line of Happiness. The ‘Yellow catalogue’ is the first publication in the trilogy The Production Line of Happinness. It’s mainly a text book, in line with the sobriety of academic syllabi. It contains essays, manifests, formal oration footnotes, an ‘index’ and ‘supplement’, as well as painstakingly described captions of re-photographed material that re-appears as a ‘stand-alone visual object’ in the second, Green edition. Some pictures are added, some are left out. In the Yellow edition it reads: SOURCE (1981), the first image in the supplement, is a quartet of photographs, that Williams presented as part of his MFA degree exhibition at California Institute of the Arts  (CalArts).

The work resulted from a process of filtering images sourced from the archives of the John F. Kennedy Library through a set of selection criteria and enacting several procedures to reprint and re-present them. During the 1980s Williams continued to work with existing archives and complex systems of selection. […] These prints are noticeably well made.

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Although this specific image is not re-appearing in the green edition, in the supplement caption to SOURCE his rigid criteria for selection and technical procedure are described in extreme detail, and this artist’s strategy Williams has maintained for a lifetime.

1. From SOURCE: The Photographic Archive, John F. Kennedy Library,  Columbia Point on Dorchester Bay, Boston, Massachusetts 02125. U.S.A; CONDITIONS FOR SELECTION: There are two conditions: the photograph or photographs must be dated May 10,1963, and the subject, John F. Kennedy, must have his back turned to the camera. All photographs on file fulfilling these requirements are used. TECHNICAL TREATMENT: The photographs are subjected to the following operations: rephotography (4 x 5 ” copy negative), enlargement (from 8 x 10″ to 11 x 14″ by use of the copy negative), and cropping (1/16″ is removed from all sides of the rephotographed, enlarged image) […].

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Williams appropriates front covers of Elle, winter holiday brochures from Switzerland, TAI Afrique campagnes, product photography of cameras manufactured in former German Democratic Republic. In case of the latter, his model is Christoph Boland. The re-photographing is mainly executed at Studio Thomas Borho in Düsseldorf. The green edition, is kind of a paper sample book: interleaved with plain green wood containing paper sections. On the front cover of each edition is a portrait of a black man: Mustafa Kinte (Gambia), each time slightly different – a moment after a moment. Mustafa is wearing a snow-white Van Laacken Shirt Kent 64. Printed in Germany is related to the preceding ‘orange edition’ and  exhibition catalogue dating from 2010: For Example: Dix-Huit Lecons Sur La Société Industrielle (Révision 11).

13. The WORST book of 2015, actually released in 2014, is The Bungalow by Anouk Kruithof, published by Onomatopee. It is number 106 in the publisher’s catalogue. Kruithof objectifies every single image; crops them, stacks them up, makes cut-outs. The subject is nullified, the content remains unspoken. The private collection of Brad Feuerhelm has earlier been delivering source material for a more thrilling artist’s book: Miss Titus Becomes a Regular Army Mac by Melinda Gibson. #Evidence is another Kruithof-twist of a collection of institutional photographs collected by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel in the 1970s. Kruithof: ‘claims the imagery as her own and robs it of her promotional intent’, which the authors intent was all together. Indeed her merit is much ‘less concrete, less stable, and less transparent’, to use her own words. Cutting and pasting and sculpting and re-photographing, photoshopping and cropping, till the image is a dead as a doornail. There is no new meaning, no added value. It totally ‘lacks integrity’, indeed ‘to be viewed as ‘pure evidence’.

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14. The second WORST book of 2015 is Lockdown Archive by Mike Mandel & Chantal Zakari. The publication is a typical Blurb book production, missing the finesse and craftsmanship of contemporary photobook making. It is simply a transfer of found photography on the Internet (the police manhunt during the Watertown lockdown of April 19, 2013, a suburb in the greater Boston area) to a rigid digital book format. Images are selected, re-organized by the artists, according to location or other ordering principles. I would not dare to call the end result an ‘artistic encyclopedic overview’. Poor printing, poor lay-out, poor typography, poor cover.

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15. Will Steacy’s, Deadline is a state of the art newsprint edition from the heart, a ‘FINAL CITY EDITION’. Full of large type front page headlines like: ‘The Disappearing storyteller’; ‘A quarter century at The Inky’. And it’s all about the era ‘When newspapers were a Family Business’. And his was. The cream of the crop is ‘section D. That’s The Press, Baby’, showing the Plate Room, the Press Room, an Ink Stained Wall. Deadline by Will Steacy is the first of two newsprint publications, I understand, deriving from the family archives, and is in line with Down these mean streets (2012). This first monograph and artist’s book by Will Steacy brings back in mind both the sketchbook of Hannah Hoch: Album (1933, 2004) and Pornografie (1971) by Klaus Staeck. Staecy is also a collage artist par excellence. In Down these mean streets self-made photographs on ‘fear and abandonment in America’s inner cities’ are juxtaposed to classy, banal, and propagandistic US newspaper clippings. Full page double spreads with headlines, cut out fragments of newspaper articles and handwritten notes on ‘financial crisis’, ‘zero jobs’, ‘bailing out’, ‘benefits and bargaining’ in American politics in the first decade of the 21st century as well as the historical events that got the country that far: post-World War II industrial growth, The Reagan years and 911. In short the ‘betrayal of the American Dream’. Excellent printing. It all has to do with ‘The Ink in His Blood’: His grandfather (I assume) wrote a college essay about his summer job at the York Dispatch in 1938.

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Mirelle Thijsen (MT)

Because it is such a historical subject, the introductions to my questions are more substantial than usual. In that manner I – and the readers – may get to know Mozambique. This all based on your recently self-published book: Looking for M. Looking for M. is a beautiful small book, in an illustrated sleeve, a detachable outer cover that catches the eye. We see a pitch-black silhouette of a black young woman, a schoolgirl from Mozambique, freestanding against a white background. That silhouette is also printed on the cover of the cardboard packaging in which the photobook is shipped. All these aspects are small design matters, which are very pleasing. The moment you pull out the booklet her personal identity shows up on the front cover. That in itself is a striking motion and revelation. On the back cover is printed, what looks like, an emblem of the combative ‘Republica de Moçambique’. What is the relationship between both images on front and back cover?

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Ben Krewinkel (BK)

My initial idea was to use the picture of the schoolgirl for the front cover, but the photograph turned out technically imperfect, blurry. Only later the same picture came out to be quite usable. I adored the picture. While I was shooting pictures, this girl was distracted by a number of other college girls she was gathering with. She seems very quiet, but also a bit tense. That is indicative of how I’ve made these pictures in Mozambique in a relatively short period of time. In the previous book I’ve issued, A Possible Life (2012), I had ample time to pay attention to someone I encountered, while during my last trip I met people for ten minutes at the most.

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MT:

How long did you stay in Mozambique, in 2013?

 

BK:

Three-and-a-half weeks. In a relatively short period of time we have traversed the entire country, we were pretty naive: the distances were misjudged…

 

MT:

WHO are ‘we’?

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BK:

I travelled together with an old college friend of mine from South Africa, his name is Jan Bezuidenhout. He has accompanied me and spoke Portuguese. To get back to the cover photograph: when I found out that the picture was actually appropriate for the front cover, it symbolizes, although in a somewhat clichéd expression, the new Mozambique. And subsequently the relationship with the symbol on the back cover is created: the emblem of the State of Mozambique. The logo, which was a variation on the original flag of Mozambique, (including the red star) has subtly changed regularly over the past few years. In 1983 the Marxist flag became more prominent. The gun is a symbol of the struggle and the defence of the country; the heel stands for agriculture and the book for education. The star on the back of the book and in the logo stands for Marxism. Voting took place whether the illustration of a rifle, an AK-47, had to be removed from the flag. A variant of this logo is included in the national flag. The opposition claims that this emblem as well as the flag has direct links with FRELIMO, (for discussion of FRELIMO, see text later in the interview) and therefore this flag is not representative for all residents of Mozambique.

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This is a country where civil war has raged for a long time, so a lot of reconstruction works take place. At the same time, I think it’s a very striking emblem, and using it on the back cover is an ode to a book I bought some time ago, which is included in The Photobook: A History (Volume III) by Gerry Badger and Martin Parr: a propaganda book of the MPLA from Angola Resistencia Popular Generalizada [1977]. The book is also fitting into a sleeve, and on the back cover the logo of Angola is printed, which is similar to this one. That Marxist symbolism is echoing in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In the propaganda machine of FRELIMO, use is often made of silhouettes; even on murals you recognize abstracted human shapes. I considered it interesting to draw together these two notions. Because the photobook is about photographs made in 1974-1975, at the start of a new phase of independency and reflecting the country’s political future. There was hope. And forty years later, in 2013, I returned and made photographs. That era is bridged, and merged.

 

That girl is a schoolgirl. In the logo on the verso an illustration of a book is included: a symbol of education, at the time national education reform finally became accessible for Mozambicans. As in many other colonies the population had little right to education; restrictions were imposed and people had to assimilate, as e.g. in the Belgian Congo. The girl is wearing a school uniform and partly under her arm, just barely visible, is a schoolbook. If I create a silhouette, I pondered, it tends to go along with the FRELIMO imagery.

 

I visited Mozambique three times. The first time was in 1997, when I was graduate student History in South Africa, in Pretoria. I went on a trip with the same fellow student: Jan Bezuidenhout. He then was gaining work experience as an intern at the South African Embassy. From Pretoria I went by train to Mozambique and visited him there.

 

MT:

How far away is that?

 

BK:

A one day trip by train: 12 hours…16 hours, maybe. It depends how frequently you are stopped for questioning and inspection at the border. That first trip was an introduction to Mozambique. I discovered a very different country than South Africa. South Africa stands for a pleasant gateway to idyllic ‘Africa’. What a lot of people expect from the continent. South Africa was already very modern, comparable to Europe or the United States.

 

MT:

And why the title: Looking for M.?

BK:

That ‘M.’ stands for the return to the Mozambique that I encountered in 1997 and hasn’t been recorded at the time. In the meantime I learned a lot about the country Mozambique. That ‘M.’ is perhaps partly mirroring the ‘memories’ that I have of my visit to the country. Even more so, the capital letter ‘M’ represents a search for Mondlane, the founder of FRELIMO, … his successor Machel perhaps …For that ‘M.’…, you can fill in a lot of things.

 

Practically without any structure and orchestration I went to Mozambique. The visit was also a search for what I considered attractive about that country and a quest for the history and how it relates to the present.

 

MT:

I was all the while assuming that the title was linked to the silhouette of this girl, but it is now very clear that the ‘M.’ is representing the country Mozambique and the revolutionary fighters in that period.

 

BK:

 

Indeed, I encountered her, and a group of school girls, at the end of the trip, on Ilha de Mozambique – an island, the former capital in fact, in the North of the country. At that time I was alone and because of the language barrier I could not converse with them. This in itself was fascinating.

 

MT:

At first glance you make the connection between the title and images on the cover, but eventually there is an option of going deeper into certain layers, another kind of affiliation.

 

Let’s take a look at the back cover. The publisher is mentioned in a tiny letter font:

f 0.23. publishing. Is this a form of self-publishing? And how does this book compare to earlier editions such as Il m’a sauvé (2014) and A Possible Life?

 

BK:

‘f zero. Twenty three’ it is! It’s the name of a publishing house that I have been setting up myself and needed in order to barcode a book; to reserve ISBNs for the production of self-published photobooks. ‘010 Publishers’ inspired me to pick the name ‘0.23’. ‘023’ is the area code for Haarlem! I linked the phone area code to the f-stop scale on the camera body. I had to quickly come up with a name, in reference to a grant application. During the production of A Possible Life I picked the name for my publishing business. Likewise, I would love to publish other people’s books. It is, though, always a question of money.

 

MT:

How does this booklet relate to the publications Il m’a sauvé – a beautiful title by the way – and A Possible Life? I am not acquainted with either of these publications.

 

BK:

A Possible Life was nominated for the DutchDoc Award. The book is about a friend of mine from Niger. He has lived in the Netherlands for a period of ten years as an illegal immigrant. I have taken pictures of him, and combined them with family photographs and personal documents, as well as with letters from his children to him. It was a violent subject; the book is about illegality. And what it means to be separated from your wife and children.

 

I choose a nimble approach to Looking for M. Although I’ve been engaged for a long time in Mozambique, and it is a serious matter, I wanted to make this book project feel effortless: to travel around and see what happens. To approach Africa differently: to shed new light on the Dark Continent.

 

Il m’a sauvé is a sequel to A Possible Life. With the designer of the book, Annette Kouwenhoven, I went to Niger. By then Jean Gualbert had returned to Niger. He currently lives in the Netherlands, where he has been granted a temporary residence permit. In Niger, we have spoken with his family; therefore Il m’a sauvé is complementary to A Possible Life. We have interviewed his children and other family members: What is the impact of father absence on the family? It is usually about money, small lies are being told, and you name it. The sequel to Il m’a sauvé will discuss informal economy; how people are staying illegally in the Netherlands to maintain their families. We want to explore all these dimensions of the project. Looking for M. is between A Possible Life and Il m’a sauvé.

MT:

Then a pamphlet has been enclosed; I consider it is an elusive document: a rich text document. The front page of the attached brochure on grey paper is a reproduction of, what looks like, a letter of recommendation intended for your stay in Mozambique, in August 2013. What was the purpose of the document?

 

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BK:

The document is intended for photojournalists to be able to work straight-forwards without any restrictions in Mozambique. In principle it is possible to photograph in public without accreditation, which is issued by the Ministry of Information, but in fact there are a number of restrictions. Sometimes corrupt soldiers stop you and ask what you are doing. And in case you do not master the language…the letter of accreditation would help. You need to make a request for accreditation in Maputo. The procedure is slow.

 

Initially we thought: we don’t do it. The document was an obligatory requirement for photographing the ex-combatants of FRELIMO. Officially these people are still affiliated with FRELIMO and have been assigned a living accommodation. And I definitely wanted to photograph the Veterans. In order to do so an authorisation is granted from FRELIMO, the party that is still in power. For a day we have been awaiting the accreditation, which usually costs 30 euros. Finally a senior official showed up and signed the document for which we didn’t have to pay after all. Then I could get to work.

 

MT:

Yes, a beautiful start of the publication: this document will provide impetus to get to the subject matter. And then we come to that funny name: ‘Eisenloeffel’. Should there be an umlaut on the ‘o’? Doesn’t the surname mean ‘spoon’ in German?

 

BK:

No, Frits’ widow, Immeke Sixma, told me this; the association with the Germans is still a rather sensitive one!

 

 

MT:

And who is Frits Eisenloeffel (Frits E.), whom for the first time travelled to Mozambique in 1974? You immediately can take that information from the ‘timeline’, as I call it. In the pamphlet is an article reprinted that Frits E. wrote in Het Parool of 28 July 1975, the year that Mozambique was declared independent.

 

BK:

Frits studied political science at the University of Amsterdam. He graduated in international relations. In those days he became interested in the struggle for independence in African countries. During his studies he ran into radicalized Portuguese deserters in Paris. He became interested in and wrote journalistic pieces about Portugal, then still a fascist state. At the time the Carnation Revolution took place (25 April 1974) in Portugal – a rebellion of low officers who had had enough of the price that they paid for the colonial wars – a regime change occurred. That resulted in the dismantling of the fascist state. Together with professional photographer Han Singels, Frits E. made different trips to Portugal. During the Carnation Revolution he joined a military transport to Mozambique (in May 1974), Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands (in August 1974). It is here that he started writing stories about these countries in transition. Frits E. worked at the time as a freelance journalist for e.g. Groene Amsterdammer, Het Parool and Avenue.

 

MT:

This specific interest stemmed from…?

 

BK:

In 1965, after taking part in a study tour to Egypt, during the Nasser regime, Frits E. grew increasingly interested in resistance movements in Latin America and in the struggle for independence in Africa. Apparently, while he was a graduate student, he also had contacts with Portuguese conscientious objectors who dealt with the colonial wars. 

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MT:

Okay, this is a perfect backdrop to the following issue. ‘A brief history’ is a timeline in the pamphlet, based on the BBC website and FRELIMO Terceiro Congresso, published in 1978. What kind of sources are these?

 

BK:

Look, I brought the publication with me: this is a propaganda book published on the occasion of the third congress of the liberation movement. Here’s where you may find an extensive timeline. The political party FRELIMO has held several congresses. In 1977 the Marxist-Lenist doctrine was officially adopted. And as for the BBC, I have consulted a time line from a BBC website; the data records I copied integrally. Actually that is a form of plagiarism, of misconduct. I am well aware that I have invited criticism, but I start the timeline in 1891, the year in which the current border of Mozambique was drawn up.

 

MT:

Why?

 

 

 BK:

Because of the ‘resistance’ that existed even before that time; the history of Mozambique reaches much further back anyway.

 

MT:

Yes, 734 Anno Domino!

 

BK:

Yes, those are the very first historical sources, from oral tradition.

 

MT:

That is clear. Good to realize that scans from these rare documentary photobooks and magazines are available to visually enhance this post. Is your time line interwoven through it? And why did you make your first trip to Mozambique in 1997? In 2000, three years later, you made a second visit to that country; and in 2013, much later, you go back once again.

 

BK:

I’ll be very concrete: I needed the time line to provide me with a historical perspective on events that have taken place; not many people know the country’s history. The personal data of Frits E. are interwoven into the timeline, so it becomes clear that all situations, ideas and events are related to each other. In 1997 I studied in South Africa, as I explained earlier. I made my first visit to Mozambique, and was overwhelmed by the kindness of people throughout the country. The trip took place relatively shortly after the civil war had ended. At the time Mozambique was a more pleasant country than South Africa. Apartheid was just abolished, but still it was a fundamental part of daily life in college: I was visiting the history department of a real Afrikaans University. You had to watch your words. Europeans who came to tell the Africans about their own history were of no benefit to the population. This was, and still is, a sensitive issue. In 2000 I graduated from the VU University Amsterdam; my Master’s thesis was about the role of women in the struggle for independence in Mozambique. In the meantime I went to South Africa several times, and made a photographic series on HIV (my final project for the Royal Art Academie in the Hague (KABK) and another series on poor whites, as a continuation of my thesis for the Master’s degree program in Photographic Studies at KABK.

 

MT:

Why did you go to South Africa in the first place?

 

BK:

The trip was part of a first exchange between the VU University Amsterdam and the University of Pretoria. Despite the cultural boycott, the VU retained the existing ties. This helped me to enrol, and being the first student of the Faculty of History of the VU in the exchange program. After my study in 2000 I wanted to make a trip from Johannesburg to Nairobi, by land. I had written a thesis about Mozambique and now I wanted to see it all with my own eyes: to travel across the country.

 

When I got there, major and disastrous floods had just occurred, I had not realized how serious the situation was. The Internet wasn’t that big a deal yet… I wanted to hitchhike to Nairobi and joined a group of backpackers. I was forced to travel to the Northern part of the country, but reached no further than a spot where the road was washed away by the water. We spent a night between refugees, sleeping on the street, and then were sent back by state soldiers because of the danger of the natural disasters taking place. I did not know how to assess the circumstances at all; I was pretty naive. Subsequently I travelled back to the North of Mozambique, crossing Zimbabwe. I would like to have stayed longer, but due to the floods my stay was confined to Maputo and Tete, a city in the North.

 

After 2000 I started a photojournalistic project in South Africa, completed the Master Photographic Studies at Leiden University, determined and disclosed the provenance for the oeuvre of Eisenloeffel, and wanted to go back to Mozambique to photograph what I missed at that time. The memories, which I was not able to capture then, I wanted to capture now.

 

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MT:

Meaning you focussed mainly on your own photographic work, and the present?

 

BK:

My father died during my graduation year. He introduced me to medium of photography. My dad had, like a number of people during the 1970s and 1980s, a darkroom. As a child, I was already intrigued by analogue photography. Sahel (1982) by Willem Diepraam was the very first photobook that we had at home. We received the photobook from the development campaigning organization Novib, as well as a calendar every year. Maybe through those publications in my subconscious the connection was made with young black (school) children who stare at you, radiant with joy! It was a turbulent time, I had to get out there, get away from the straight jacket of university life. I wanted freedom.

 

The trip we took to Mozambique in 2013 was quite different: I went together with a friend, in a car. I was older, I had kids … more responsibility: a different experience altogether. When I investigated the archive of Frits E. and looked at his photographs of Mozambique again, I thought that I had to pick it up, this ‘story’, to close the loop. It was then, in search of the Mozambique that I had encountered myself, the Mozambique that Frits has seen with his own eyes, and that I had never documented.

 

MT:

Let’s get back to the historical context: Frits E. describes the establishment of the transitional government of FRELIMO. Could you explain what that name of this liberation movement means, what it represents? It sounds like a brand name of a soft drink!

 

BK:

FRELIMO is an abbreviation for Frente de Libertação de Moçambique: the liberation front of Mozambique, resulting from the merger of three political parties. And the movement is still in power.

 

MT:

Yes, that’s incredible…FRELIMO then worked illegally to facilitate the transition from intra-state of war to democratic peace, to solve material problems, and diaspora – maybe the concept did not exist yet, but that’s what it was all about – and famine. And what are the so-called ‘Dynamisation groups’? Frits E. talks about ‘autonomous units’, similar to committees within FRELIMO. (Frits describes it nicely: “the most decentralized expression of popular power”).

 

BK:

The rise of FRELIMO is complex. FRELIMO initially operated from the North of Tanzania, which was liberated area. The circumstances were less spectacular than one reads in the propaganda fliers and books of FRELIMO. They exerted influence on the population. FRELIMO wanted to create a socialist society, down from Tanzania. And the so-called ‘dynamisation’ groups are organizations that were set up in areas that were not yet released by FRELIMO. This has everything to do with the stage of transition. As for the dynamisation groups, members had the right to choose their own leaders. They were represented in factories, agricultural collectives, and villages. The population appoints its leaders.

 

MT:

A type of trade union?

 

BK:

Yes, similar to trade unions. And the dynamisation groups have long been tightly controlling parts of the country. The leaders usually had membership of the FRELIMO party. Officially they operated independently of the social doctrine of FRELIMO and they strived to create a new society. They operated mainly from areas where no battle was waged between Portugal and FRELIMO.

 

MT:

Sounds a bit like missionary work…

 

BK:

Yes …These change groups were a type of buffers; people were prepped for the socialist ideology. One of the priorities of FRELIMO was the moral crusade against prostitution. When the liberation movement came to power prostitution was banned. In theatre plays opposition against prostitution, capitalism, etc. was propagated. To make sure that Portuguese citizens would not radicalize or start exhibiting reactionary behaviour. Furthermore, many Mozambicans did not want to be involved with FRELIMO whatsoever because they were not genuine socialists. in 1969, the head of FRELIMO, Mondlane was murdered, probably by dissidents within the movement, in collaboration with the secret service of Portugal (PIDE). Various forms of power play were conducted in the open; In short, this transitional period was quite turbulent. In 1977 the doctrine has been officially implemented in government policy. The ‘dynamisation’ groups were also deployed to run factories at the time the Portuguese had fled the country. The question is whether the dynamisation groups were in a position to take on such tasks. In fact, the groups were directed to prepare the country, also economically, for what is to come.

 

MT:

Some things one doesn’t really know… During the mid-1970s, some 200.000 whites lived and worked in the Portuguese colony. Since then, about half of the population has left, is what Frits wrote. We talk about people that were highly educated: European doctors, engineers, teachers, real estate agents, officials and public servants. This development was highly criticized. I read a revealing comment in the pamphlet: “An average departing Portuguese family has as many cubic metres or baggage as the total living space of an average (much larger) African family living in a slum”. (This is a statement from a young FRELIMO supporter Frits E. had encountered in the harbour area of the capital). Would you like to comment on that statement?

 

BK

The Portuguese were of course better off than the native people, just as was the case in other colonies. The power was unequally distributed. At the time the transition took place they were requested to leave; it was a politics of hate and envy. The statement refers to fleeing Portuguese citizens who were afraid of a ‘day of reckoning’. During the transitional period, there has been a lot of fear among the Portuguese population, which led to a mass exodus. The Portuguese had not been expelled, unlike media coverage announced. Especially many young Portuguese left; whole families had been torn apart, because children who were born in Mozambique remained.

 

We talked to a woman who as a girl fled from Mozambique, in 1975, and recently came back to open a hotel. In the hotel a kind of museum display on Samora Machel had been set up, but she suffers from all kinds of restrictions. In any case, because of the crisis in southern Europe (PIGS) many Portuguese returned to the former colony. That’s where there is more equality of opportunity for them. However, the government immigration policy is quite reluctant regarding Europeans. People are being stopped for questioning at the border. The most poignant photographs are those of fleeing Portuguese people. At the same time I sympathize with the statement by the African FRELIMO supporter He was incensed by it all. The Portuguese had better houses, more facilities, and much better opportunities than the Mozambicans.

 

When I was in Mozambique the former Minister of Home Affairs in the government Machel, Armando Guebuza, had presidential power. Guebuza had a decree pronounced: ‘24/20’. Every citizen was allowed to carry luggage weighing up to 20kg and had to be out of the country within 24 hours. That happened to be categorically incorrect: Portuguese citizens were welcome to stay, apart from reactionaries, landowners and capitalists; those groups of people were forced to leave. A lot of myths were circulating. Things like this: The Portuguese were supposed to have poured concrete in the elevator shafts of a large hotel in order to disable the escalator system.

 

The exodus had become catalytic by the fall of the fascist regime and the failed coupe attempt of September 1974 (a coupe by Portuguese reactionary military units). Eisenloeffel has written about this period, too.

 

MT:

Yes, you sense that this often led to friction. Samora Machel was the new president, who shortly after the declaration of independence travelled throughout the country and personally discussed the future of Mozambique with his citizens. Frits E. describes this media event as an “impressive circus”. What does he mean by that?

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BK:

Eduardo Mondlane was succeeded by Machel. He was the military leader of FRELIMO and president of the first Republic. Machel made a triumphal march throughout the country in the run-up to independence. That march was a kind of media circus; he delivered speeches and attended a place where a massacre had taken place. In addition, he visited the strategic Cahora Bassadam, a power plant that FRELIMO tried to destroy as it delivered power output demand for the Portuguese population. The triumph was of huge symbolic significance. Machel was a media-genic: a handsome man who was able to fire people’s imagination. During his regime the military struggle expanded enormously. As late as today he is still honoured. Eisenloeffel traveled along with the media circus, as a member of a film crew.

 

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MT:

Interesting, to realize how these things correlate. Let’s hold on to that image: Machel and his media circus. The small pamphlet – that is compact and offers much information – includes a numbered photo-index. What is striking is that Looking for M. opens with a newspaper photograph and copyright stamp of Frits Eisenloeffel, and as such demonstrating an act of modesty. Why?

 

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BK:

It is an excerpt from the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer. The copyright stamp is of Frits, the caption ‘photographs must be returned’, relates to a portrait, a press picture of Machel, showing him side by side with Mondlane. And that image: the double-portrait appears again in one of my photographs. From a historical and legal point of view, the procedure is not correct, but it corresponds with the people’s wish: not back to the photographer, but to the country. Curiously enough, a military soldier stopped us and started to rant, raving about the fact that photographers simply came taking pictures from the people in Mozambique and gave nothing in return.

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Only later I came up with the idea to combine photographs by both Frits and me. And at the same time the book project is a tribute to his work; a way to make his work more publicly known. He went to Mozambique in the first place, hence the story begins chronologically with photographs by Frits and it ends with a small document of mine: the entrance ticket to the Museum of the Revolution. Frits was engaged in African history and culture for a period of ten years. At the time his journalistic work has been frequently published in magazines and newspapers like Avenue, Het Parool and De Groene Amsterdammer. Thus, that part of his legacy fitted into a new context. My book concerns his earliest work.

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MT:

I would like to pose one more question about the text you wrote for this publication. You continue describing in the pamphlet contemporary Mozambique 40 years later. And you start by mentioning a paradox between, on the one hand, showy capitalism in the streets, and on the other hand, the signs of the armed revolution at the time and of the now abandoned Marxist-Lenist ideology, visualized in statues and murals. Can you please explain further this paradox?

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BK:

The murals: outdoor paintings directly applied onto a wall, are very much part of public life in Mozambique and of the history of the country. This is well explained by Paul Fauvet who I met in Maputo. In all major cities and towns you may find those big propagandistic murals. In a wonderful way these paintings agitated against the bourgeoisie and told the story of the revolution. As in a comic book, that history is elucidated. Maybe the visual stories are meant for illiterate people. Many of these wall paintings turn out to be based on journalistic photographs, allpictures that were circulating in the press. It’s really beautiful.

 

The previous leaders are still in power. That’s fascinating. Under president Chissano FRELIMO rid itself of the Marxism-Lenist doctrine, but many of the old gentlemen are still in power. Further, Samora Machel – he is still considered the father of the Nation – still captures the people’s imagination. He is charming, has sex appeal; He’s definitely the symbol of the country. This form of personality cult was not in vogue in the time Mondlane led the movement.

 

Now you see a huge influx of capital. The people of Mozambique are nowadays not necessarily interested in the history of the revolutionary struggle. Especially young people are interested in a career, earning money and in having a mobile phone. That is quite visible in the streets. People are walking along the wall paintings, without taking notice. For Frits E. these paintings meant the future, for me they rather represent the past. That is why I have deliberately selected the mural of R. Kelly for this book. That painting touches the Heart of Youth. I included an advertisement and billboards, also in the shape of murals.

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Around a statue of Machel in the city Beira, huge replicas of Coca Cola bottles are situated. This bizarre monument is not included in my book. And by now you may find more murals of the mobile phone providers mCel and Vodacom than of Samora Machel. These providers are more present than the revolutionaries. Thus, history seems to fade somewhat; you need to look for it. And where previously Mondlane came to the fore, it seems as if today you notice mainly new statues of Machel.

 

MT:

Would you please elaborate some more on the founder of FRELIMO, the prototype of the modern opposition leader, Eduardo Mondlane? He is now considered just a shadow, a vague historical figure, is what you write.

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BK:

Eduardo Mondlane was an intellectual; he achieved a doctorate degree in anthropology, he spoke fluent English. He was educated in South Africa, worked for the UN in the United States and married an American woman. Afterwards, he returned to Mozambique, in order to lead the liberation front from Tanzania. When FRELIMO originated in 1962 from the merger of three other political parties, Mondlane was nominated as future leader by president Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. Mondlane is the founder of the party, but at the time FRELIMO operated mainly out of Tanzania.

 

He was different from Machel, who was trained as a nurse. I was curious how the Portuguese Mozambicans experienced the difference in leadership between Mondlane and Machel. According to a Mozambican bartender, Mondlane was the academic who had to build a theoretical framework indicating how to make the first steps towards independence, and was the commander of the armed forces; Machel, the person who actually conducted the war.

 

When Mondlane was in power, constant internal power struggles were taking place. Mondlane is murdered in 1969 by a parcel bomb in Dar es Salaam – probably sent by the secret service of Portugal, and by FRELIMO dissidents. After his death a power struggle between Uria Simango, the Vice-President, and Samora Machel developed. The latter won. Simango was accused of betrayal and executed after a show trial. The unconventional event is somewhat reminiscent of the story of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky.

 

Mondlane turned out not to be a devotee of some politicians who came to power after him, and in his book The Struggle for Mozambique he stands side by side with Simango. In a later visual narrative, a cartoon version, Simango is out of sight. Yet, Simango belonged to another camp than Mondlane and Machel, who made attempts to reform the country towards a socialist state; however, Simango wanted to swap the white elite for a black elite.

 

I’ve always felt that Mondlane is a somewhat more moderate figure than Machel and I am wondering how he would have led the country after achieving independence, which direction FRELIMO would then have followed subsequently.

 

MT:

You mean…because of his sudden death?

 

 BK:

Yes …And as for the process of Mondlane fading gradually as a historical figure … Not only Machel has a statue, there is also a statue of Mondlane, donated by North Korea. In 2010 in all province capitals exact replicas of the original donated statue of Machel by North Korea were installed, and in Maputo itself, about a hundred metres from the original, a huge new copy has been erected. Machel has become an export product, a kind of Che Guevara. Mondlane does not have that status. He used to be the historical figure depicted on the Mozambique banknotes, but now that is Machel. Only occasionally, he emerges on a mural, or in a school building a portrait of Mondlane is hanging on the wall.

 

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MT:

When we started our conversation, you explained why you, at the time being a student in history, decided in 1997 to travel to Mozambique. Yet, I would like to refer back to that document that you inserted into the back of the book. It represents, it seems to me, a special moment for you. You were at that time the only visitor to the Museum of the Revolution in Maputo. The building was dilapidated, a former revolutionary fighter, dressed in rags, gave you a tour of the ‘history of the struggle for independence’.

 

BK:

I have visited the museum twice. In 2013 it was closed. In 1997, I studied, as I said before, in Pretoria and had by then completed the degree program. A study friend lived in Maputo and I was invited to visit. During the day he worked at the Embassy. With the travel guide Lonely Planet in hand I visited all kinds of places, including the run down Museum of the Revolution and the Museum of Natural History. The museum is such a typical artefact from the revolutionary war. I like museums that are not particularly attractive to most tourists. In El Salvador, I encountered those too. That’s where you find awkward signboards, strange objects (such as weapons, ID’s, photographs, flags, but also a jump rope and the running shorts that belonged to Machel). Some room texts were copied word-for-word from Mondlane’s publication. Only when I started to deal with Mozambique at the VU University Amsterdam, everything fell into place.

 

The fact that the person at the museum, a veteran dressed in what looks like part of a uniform, went ahead to turn on the lights of the exhibition rooms, triggered certain feelings. Like going back in time, like an archaeologist making unique discoveries. The museum was founded in the 1970s. The museum collection includes cannons, and Korean paintings. Fascinating to see nothing had changed since its opening. It’s all past glory. I returned to Mozambique in 2000, after achieving more historical knowledge, so as to better appreciate everything on display. The museum was closed in 2013, because of a renovation. And as for the entrance ticket: inflation caused an increase of the admission fee; the prior fee is deleted on the entrance ticket.

 

MT:

Could you please elaborate a bit more on the publication that the veteran, I call him the ‘guard’, out of convenience, pointed out to you: The Struggle for Mozambique, that was written by Eduardo Mondlane himself. And please explain to what extent the publication is the foundation for your MA-thesis in History, in which you examine the role of women in the struggle for independence.

 

BK:

The Struggle for Mozambique is often referred to as an autobiography, but in fact it contains a clear statement about the history of the liberation struggle in Mozambique. To a large extent the Museum of the Revolution in Maputo is based on this publication. Entire sections are retrieved from the book and are on display in the museum. This is how I became interested in The Struggle for Mozambique. I was specializing in modern African History, in relation to the ANC in South Africa, but as a result of the museum visit and getting acquainted with the publication by Mondlane, I realized I wanted to publish on this topic.

 

Mondlane was in favour of improving empowerment and status of women. This is the subject and scope of my thesis. Contemporary propaganda magazines like Mozambique Revolution gave rise to concern with the women’s movement. I examined this more in depth. Initially in the liberated areas, women gained more rights. Also, women were included in the so-called ‘Destacamento Feminino’ led by Machel’s first wife: Josina Machel. In Looking for M. a portrait is included of a woman who has been a member of such a brigade.

 

MT:

This took place in 1999. Six years later, you discovered the archives of the Dutch journalist Frits Eisenhoeffel (1944-2001). It is not clear to me what his profession was. Was he a photojournalist or a journalist writing for newspapers and magazines?

 

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BK:

Frits Eisenhoeffel was a journalist, a reporter writing articles, and needed pictures to illustrate his pieces…

 

MT:

I ask you this, because you put Frits E. as a photojournalist in the foreground.

 

BK:

That’s right. Yes, I studied his photographic archive.

 

 

MT:

In the early 1960s Frits E. was interested in Portugal, then a fascist state and losing its grip on the colonies. Whence the particular interest of Frits E. in this country, and in these political issues?

 

BK:

As I explained earlier, Frits E. met some Portuguese soldiers, deserters. His oeuvre can be divided into two parts: Southern Africa on the one hand, and on the other hand, in the 1980s the wars in Africa, particularly the liberation of Eritrea. For ten years he documented the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

 

MT:

How did you get in touch with his legacy?

 

BK:

On the recommendation of Flip Bool (former chief curator collections/archives Netherlands Fotomuseum NFM, Rotterdam). I had an internship at the Netherlands Fotomuseum. I conducted research on Dutch photographers in Africa from the 1840s to the present. Flip Bool had already been in contact with Frits’ widow, Immeke Sixma, because of her request by the institute to purchase her husband’s photographic archive. At the time Flip Bool did not consider it suitable for acquisition, but recommended the estate to me in terms of thematic content. Subsequently, Sixma commissioned me to investigate the content of the archive, describing and making it available to the public. To that end, a foundation was created to highlight the photographic work of Frits E., which he made in Africa, and to bring the provenance to a wider audience.

 

From a total of 300.000 photographs a selection of 3.000 copies was made that have been scanned. Later I have described the selected photographs in a database, by means of book publications, magazines, newspapers and journals. ‘Mozambique’ constitutes a significant section of about 200 photographs. Part of this section is made available by the International Institute for Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam, in the framework of a digital exhibition. The IISH has acquired the integral collection of Frits Eisselloeffel.

 

MT:

You have prepared a database?

 

BK:

Yes! I made use of FotoStation, a software program that is actually used by photo agency Hollandse Hoogte.

 

MT:

How long did it take you to prepare the database?

 

BK:

One day a week, for about one-and-a-half years.

 

 

MT:

Later in this conversation, we will focus more on single images by Frits E., also in comparison to your work. Frits introduces yet another notion. What is meant by the term ‘Carnation Revolution’ that took place in April 1974? I understand it was a military coup d’état without bloodshed, organized by left wing parties.

 

BK:

Carnation Revolution is the aforementioned non-violent Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974. This revolution brought years of fascist rule to a conclusion. Lower ranking Portuguese officers revolted in Portugal out of frustration over the high price that was paid, especially by them, during the colonial wars. Frits E. had interest in the liberation struggle and he was in contact with its members. He decided to travel with a military transport to write a post-event report. First to West-African Guinea Bissau and then to Mozambique. Later he visited other Southern African countries.

 

MT:

Frits E. travels to Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau to report on the political upheavals for Het Parool and De Groene Amsterdammer. And where is Guinea-Bissau?

 

BK:

On the West coast, close to Ghana.

MT:

Photography was used for party political propaganda. You mentioned that in relation to the magazine Mozambique Revolution. How was photographic material put forth?

th

BK:

FRELIMO also needed assistance from abroad. Many foreign anti-imperialist action groups (such as the Eduardo Mondlane Foundation – later merging into the NIZA) distributed magazines (Mozambique Revolution is widely circulated), and posters. Mozambican photographers frequently published their journalistic pictures in this kind of propagandistic publications. Kok Nam, Ricardo Rangel and others represent a strong photo-journalistic tradition in Mozambique.

 

The question is to what extent their photographs were reproduced in the propagandistic magazines of FRELIMO, which were sent to Anti-Apartheid organisations around the world. And in there, photography played an important role in showing the misdeeds of Portuguese colonial era and the way FRELIMO operated in liberated areas. Nevertheless, many international photographers took pictures in the area as well. To mention a few: the Swede Anders Johansson, the well-known Africanist Basil Davidson, the forgotten Japanese photographer Tadahiro Ogawa, as well as Koen Wessing and Frits Eisenloeffel. Some photographs by Frits appeared back then, if I recall well, on a political poster. However, the work by Frits, was not distributed or used by FRELIMO, nor by the MPLA.  

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MT:

Tell me about the nephew of Frits E., the professional photographer Koen Wessing. In 1974, De Bezige Bij in Amsterdam published his seminal photobook Chili September 1973. And, as I read in Wessing’s biography, he left the same year for Guinea-Bissau, Here this brings you both together and your perceptions of both periods of Mozambique, there is indeed forty years in between. You describe its value, in rather heavy terms. The approach is ‘personal’, ‘anachronistic’ and ‘substantial’ and ‘aesthetic’, commissioned by the Angola Committee. Who joined him?

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BK:

Actually, Frits E. and Koen Wessing were not present in Guinea-Bissau at the same time. Initially, Frits has arrived there with a crew to make a film, commissioned by the VPRO. Koen Wessing is a first cousin of Frits Eisenloeffel. Han Singel, Joost Guntenaar and Koen Wessing taught Frits how to take pictures. Following his distinctive publication about Chile, Wessing compiled Djarama PIAGC, commissioned by the Angola Committee, on the occasion of the one-year existence of the Republic.

 

The publication, in appearance very similar to a cahier, has the same size as Chili, September 1973, but the book design is of less quality. I consider the zeal present in Chili, September 1973, lacking in Djarama PIAGC. I read somewhere that at the time Wessing took these pictures, Angola was, like Mozambique, already a de facto state. Finally, Portugal recognized Mozambique’s independence in September 1974. At the launch of Djarama PIAGC Guinea-Bissau celebrated the declaration of independence of the republic, which officially took place in 1973.

 

MT:

I wondered to what extent a publication like Chile, September 1973 might affect someone like Frits E.?

 

BK:

I think they shared the same political and social commitment, although Frits never made photobooks. Frits had written a story about Guinea-Bissau in De Groene Amsterdammer on May 15, 1974, which has been illustrated with press images by Koen Wessing. All this took place before Djarama PIAGC was published.

 

MT:

They cross-pollinated so to speak!

Why was cataloguing the photo-journalistic work of Fritz E. a catalyst to return to Mozambique in 2013?

BK:

Archiving his work recalled all kinds of memories. While leafing through stacks of pictures I felt the need to go back again. The affiliation with the images, the memories that Frits’ images, texts or diaries stimulated, as well as reflecting on my MA thesis, enticed me to visit the country again and to capture what I had encountered during my previous trips, but had not been able to document at the time. In that sense, the ‘M.’ in the title of the book definitely refers to ‘Memories’ … but also to ‘Mondlane’, ‘Machel’, and ‘Mozambique’. Investigating and cataloguing Frits’ archive offered a variety of opportunities for me to close this chapter.

 

MT:

The following quote is appropriate at this point in the conversation. Could you please explain it further?

The concept of Looking for M. is a conscious departure from the traditional journalistic method, being rather a personal and almost anachronistic approach in which both substantive and aesthetic synergy arises between the artistry and perception of two Dutch photographers working in different areas.

In this quote you bring the two of you together, and you try to juxtapose both yours and Frits’ perception of Mozambique, despite an age gap of 40 years. You value it, in terms heavy with meaning. You access both yours and Frits’ approach as being: ‘personal’, ‘anachronistic’, ‘substantial’ and ‘aesthetic’.

 

BK:

I juxtapose journalistic images taken in the 1970s with my documentary photographs. Sometimes the pictures reinforce each other, such as in the case of pictures of people entering or leaving the ports of Maputo. Then again, there is similarity in terms of formal elements. So here on the left you see a portrait of a veteran, and it’s very plausible he has been fighting against this soldier, depicted on the right page.

 

In my first dummy I had not yet included pictures by Frits.

For subsequent dummies, I have made selections based on aesthetics (to be compared with the way Stephen Gill compiled Let’s sit down before we go by Bertien van Manen). There were some striking similarities between the scenes in the pictures of both Frits and mine; I absolutely had not thought of this beforehand.

 

MT:

Let’s discuss this further while looking at the spreads. How do you re-contextualize the work of Fritz E., in Looking for M.? And tell me, what is your work about; What are we looking at? To come naturally to speak about the portrait of the school girl, wearing a yellow button on her dress. Let’s look at a number of double page layouts. Unfortunately, the numbering of the pictures, related to the captions in the photo-index, is missing on the illustrated pages, which makes comparing both a bit troublesome.

 

BK:

Fritz worked as a journalist and his photographs were originally intended to inform people about the political situation in situ in those days. In this book context, in Looking for M., his pictures gain a different meaning, because his journalistic images are linked to my documentary photographs. The cultural historical context is changing and with it, perhaps, the interpretation of images in the documentary mode.

 

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Double page spread 002-003

The caption ‘return to sender’ is stamped on the back of a frequently used press photo made by an anonymous photographer, which I’ve bought at some point. The stamp refers to returning the photograph to the ‘source’, either the photographer or the archive. Frits himself very much wanted his pictures to be returned to the people who actually were the main actors in the pictures.

The press photo showing a double portrait of Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel, is made in Tanzania. And look, this is what I mean regarding the wall paintings: this shows again that Machel is indeed the logical successor of Mondlane. There are not so many pictures circulating in which they show up together.

 

 

 MT:

A master-apprentice relationship, so to speak. Ah, the mural is actually based on this picture!

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BK:

Yes. Many people, those who know the history of Mozambique, will recognize this picture. The South African specialist Albie Sachs has even released a publication about the Mozambican murals: Images de Mocambique (1983). Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas made the pictures in this book. In the colophon her surname is spelled incorrectly as: ‘Maiselas’.

 

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MT:

Nice that you mention this detail!

 

Double page spread 006-007

And… What number? I should have continued numbering the photo pages! I suspect this is a so-called ‘dynamizing group’. Construction workers are working on a road. Frits did not always write photo captions, short descriptions accompanying the illustrations. So it’s just the picture that speaks for itself. And this picture, I consider a beautiful landscape photograph. Crossing Mozambique, you’ll encounter road construction works everywhere, supervised by Chinese inspectors. Frits E. shot almost exclusively in black and white, as many of his contemporaries did. However, this particular image is in colour; and therefore, many people assume that I took that picture!

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Double page spread 010-011

Here you see society in stark contrast. This is a pool on the roof of an expensive hotel in Maputo. We look at a migrant maintaining the pool. And this picture was taken at the Grand Hotel in Beira, a Portuguese megalomaniac project from the 1950s. It’s a huge hotel that has never been successful and, therefore, immediately declared bankrupt. And later squatters moved into the building. The story is similar to Ponte City in South Africa! This is the first Olympic swimming pool in Mozambique. Today, people wash their dirty clothing here. During the transition period, FRELIMO resided here. Both pictures are mine.

 

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MT:

So the modus operandi is not always showing the difference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ on a double page?

 

BK:

No, not always.

 

Double photo spread 014-015

I suspect this is a performance related to these ‘dynamising groups’. Which were established to explain to people, for example, what was wrong with capitalism. It could just as well be a festive gathering. And here you see children playing in the streets in Beira.

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MT:

The playfulness, the liveliness is what both images have in common….

 

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Double photo spread 016 and 018-019

This is an old FRELIMO veteran, who is still considered the ‘boss’ and people stand in awe of him. He is still the commander in chief, and did the talking. He lives in a veteran’s village. And the woman depicted opposite the page with the schoolgirl is a former fighter, a veteran, from the women’s detachment. Yesterday I looked again at the Sahel book by Diepraam, and the backside shows a portrait from a blind woman. This picture reminds me of that image. Maybe a cliché reference which slipped in unconsciously.

 

MT:

This is one of the few examples showing a small black and white picture on the top half of the white page. The man on the right, in uniform, is a Che Chevara type.

 

 

BK:

It’s a panoramic image; you don’t need to make a quarter turn with the book in order to ‘read the image’. And the military men both look sad and act in a similar way.

 

MT:

They both use body language in a same way.

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Double page spread 028-029

Yes. This silhouette of the woman carrying a baby fades away against such a monumental background. I just stood there for a while with my camera. People pass along the mural without noticing it. On the opposite page you see a black and white photograph of Portuguese soldiers listening to a speech by Machel.

 

MT:

It is Machel depicted in the mural?

 

BK:

Yes, in that sense, the pictures match. And these men are criminals, right?

 

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Double page spread 032-033

Those guys are standing on top of a rubbish dump and are looking for processed materials to make toys. This picture was made on a tourist spot in the North, called Pemba. Mozambique has a beautiful coastline. And these kids, portrayed by Frits E., are posing the same way.

 

MT:

That doesn’t change over time….

 

BK:

No…

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Double page spread 034-035

On the left you see a photo store run by a Chinese. A portrait of the new president is hanging in in the window display, but not visible in the image frame. Here’s a portrait of Mondlane. I intended to buy it, but the shopkeeper asked 100 EUR for the picture. The influence of the People’s Republic of China in Mozambique is growing. The EU is Mozambique’s fourth economic partner in this regard after South Africa, China and India.

 

Double page spread 038-039

A cut-out from De Groene Amsterdammer. Anyway, I considered it relevant to print in the heart of the book an image similar to the very first picture, to demonstrate the layout of photographs by Frits E. on double-page spreads in newspapers. And from these two people, an older couple now, I’ve made individual portraits in Looking for M.

 

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Double page spread 041-042

These documents imply job employment … This kind of portraits of African people are often linked to genocide. So pictures like these initially have a negative connotation, but these are ID’s from workers in a bakery, which is run by a Moroccan from Fes.

 

 

MT:

Yes, I think it’s a wonderful double-page spread.

But why are these portraits of bakery employees exposed in this way? We’re looking at IDs you said?

 

BK:

Yes, similar to IDs, kind of health certificates from the employees hanging in the store. The picture on the opposite page was taken from a moving car and is therefore somewhat blurred. Mozambicans are burning coal. And the young woman in the picture is a coal saleswoman. A kind of market economy, a street trade, you could say. And the colours in both pictures coincide.

 

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Double page spread 055-056

These people are the shoemaker and his wife, who are depicted – when you open the book to the middle of the signature – on page 038-039) in the press photo by Frits E., that I just described.

 

MT:

parents mourning’ is the caption of that picture.

 

BK:

Machel referred in his speech to the anniversary of the massacres in which their only two sons were killed. And the juxtaposed image is an anachronistic advertising picture of R. Kelly, a contemporary R&B singer, meant, as opposed to the more propagandistic murals.

 

MT:

So this wall painting is much more contemporary than political in nature. And then finally the schoolgirl … It starts and ends with her!

 

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Photo page 059

She is one of the schoolgirls I photographed on Ilha de Mozambique, at the end of my trip. I don’t know her name. I wrote it down somewhere, but I lost that piece of paper. I’m pretty sure the yellow button she is wearing has a clip to hook on a cell phone. Everyone has cell phones in Mozambique. Everywhere you look you see mobile phone commercials, even the houses are painted in the colours of cell phone providers.

 

 *See for links the Dutch language version of this conversation on theloggingroad

 

 

 

BEN KREWINKEL:

In die zin slaat de ‘M.’ in de titel zeker ook op ‘Memories’…Maar ook op ‘Mondlane’, ‘Machel’, en ‘Mozambique’.  

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Mirelle Thijsen (MT):

Omdat het zo’n historisch onderwerp is zijn de inleidingen op mijn vragen wat langer dan gebruikelijk. En ik zelf heb op die manier Mozambique leren kennen – via deze weg, aan de hand van jouw recent verschenen genummerde boek uitgegeven in eigen beheer: Looking for M.

 

Looking for M. is een mooi klein boekje, gevat in een geïllustreerde hoes die in het oog springt. We zien een zwart silhouetje van een zwarte jonge vrouw, een schoolmeisje uit Mozambique, vrijstaand gemaakt tegen een witte achtergrond. Dat silhouet staat ook al op het omslag van de kartonnen verpakking waarin het boek naar je toegestuurd wordt. Kleine vormgevingsaspecten, waar ik voor val. Pas als je het boekje uitschuift wordt haar identiteit zichtbaar op het voorplat. Dat is een mooie beweging en openbaring tegelijk. Op de achterkant van de hoes staat, denk ik, een embleem van de strijdvaardige ‘Republica de Moçambique’. Wat is de relatie tussen beide afbeeldingen op de hoes, voor en achter?

 

Ben Krewinkel (BK):

Het idee was het fotootje van het meisje te gebruiken, maar achteraf bleek die opname technisch slecht. Pas later bleek het portret bruikbaar. Ik vond het beeld zo mooi. Toen ik aan het fotograferen was, werd zij afgeleid door een aantal andere schoolmeisjes, waarmee zij samen was. Ze lijkt er heel rustig te staan, maar ook een beetje gespannen en dat is tekenend voor hoe ik deze foto’s heb gemaakt in Mozambique, in een relatief korte tijd. In het vorige boek dat ik heb gemaakt, A Possible Life (2012), had ik veel tijd om iemand te volgen en nu heb ik mensen soms maar tien minuten gezien.

 

MT:

Hoe lang verbleef je daar in 2013?

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BK:

Drie-en-een-halve week. In een relatief korte tijd hebben we het hele land doorkruist, vrij naïef ingestapt: de afstanden verkeerd ingeschat…

MT:

Wie zijn ‘we’?

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BK:

Ik heb samen gereisd met een oude studievriend van mij uit Zuid-Afrika, Jan Bezuidenhout. Hij heeft mij begeleid en sprak ook Portugees. Ik kom terug op die omslagfoto: toen ik ontdekte dat de foto wel bruikbaar was voor de omslag, stond deze opname symbool voor, misschien ietwat cliché, het nieuwe Mozambique. En dan wordt de relatie gelegd met dat symbool op de achterzijde; met het embleem van de staat Mozambique. Het logo, waarvan een variant op de oorspronkelijke vlag van Mozambique stond, (inclusief rode ster) is de afgelopen jaren regelmatig subtiel veranderd. In 1983 werd de marxistische vlag prominenter. Het geweer staat symbool voor de strijd en de verdediging van het land, de hak voor landbouw en het boek voor educatie. De ster op de rug van het boek en in het embleem staan voor het marxisme. Er is gestemd over het feit of dit geweer, een AK-47, uit de vlag moest. Een variant van dit embleem is in de nationale vlag opgenomen. De oppositie beweert dat dit embleem en de vlag een directe verbinding hebben met FRELIMO. En daarmee is dit niet een vlag voor alle inwoners van Mozambique.

In het land heeft lange tijd een burgeroorlog gewoed, dus er is veel over te doen. Tegelijkertijd vind ik het een heel mooi symbool, en is het gebruik ervan op de achterzijde een ode aan een boek dat ik een tijd geleden het gekocht, en dat is opgenomen in The Photobook: A History (Volume III) van Gerry Badger en Martin Parr: een propagandaboek van de MPLA uit Angola Resistencia Popular Generalizada [1977]. Dat boek zit ook in een hoes, en op de achterkant ervan staat het logo van Angola, dat lijkt hier op. Die Marxistische symboliek zie je in allerlei vormen terugkomen. In de propagandamiddelen van FRELIMO wordt vaak gebruik gemaakt van silhouetten, ook op muurschilderingen zie je geabstraheerde vormen van mensen. Ik vond het interessant om die twee aspecten samen te brengen. Want het boekje gaat over foto’s die gemaakt zijn in 1974-1975, toen het land aan het begin stond van een nieuwe periode van onafhankelijkheid. Er was veel hoop. En veertig jaar later, in 2013 maakte ik er foto’s. Dat tijdsgewricht wordt overbrugd, en samengevoegd.

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Dat meisje is een schoolmeisje en in het embleem staat overigens een boek, een symbool voor educatie, dat eindelijk toegankelijk werd voor Mozambikanen. Net als in veel andere koloniën mocht de bevolking niet zomaar naar school, er golden specifieke regels: je moest eerst assimileren, zoals in Belgisch Congo. Dat meisje draagt het schooluniform deels onder haar arm, nog net geen schoolboek. Als ik hier een silhouet van maak, dacht ik, valt dat samen met de FRELIMO beeldspraak.

Ik ben drie keer in Mozambique geweest. De eerste keer was in 1997, toen ik student geschiedenis was in Zuid-Afrika, in Pretoria. Ik ging op reis met diezelfde studiegenoot: Jan Bezuidenhout. Hij liep toen stage bij de Zuid-Afrikaanse ambassade. Vanuit Pretoria ben ik met de trein naar Mozambique gegaan en heb hem daar bezocht.

 

MT:

Hoe ver is dat?

 

BK:

Een dag reizen met de trein. 12 uur…16 uur, zoiets? Het hangt er vanaf hoelang je op de grens tegengehouden wordt…Die eerste reis was een kennismaking met Mozambique. Ik trof een heel ander land aan dan Zuid-Afrika. Zuid-Afrika staat voor mij voor een prettig soort toegangspoort naar idyllisch “AFRIKA”. Wat veel mensen van het continent Afrika verwachten. Zuid-Afrika was toen al heel erg modern, vergelijkbaar met Europa of de Verenigde Staten.

 

MT:

En vanwaar deze titel: Looking for M.?

BK:

Die ‘M.’ staat voor het feit dat ik terugkeer naar het Mozambique dat ik eerder in 1997 aantrof en toen niet heb vastgelegd. In die tussentijd heb ik veel geleerd over Mozambique. Die ‘M.’ staat misschien wel gedeeltelijk voor herinneringen die ik aan dat land had. Meer nog voor een zoektocht naar Mondlane, de oprichter van FRELIMO, …zijn opvolger Machel wellicht…Die ‘M.’…, daar kun je een hoop dingen voor invullen.

 

Vrijwel zonder structuur en vooropgesteld plan ben ik naar Mozambique gegaan. Het is tevens een zoektocht naar wat ik zelf in dat land aantrekkelijk vond, en naar de geschiedenis en hoe die zich verhoudt tot het heden.

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MT:

Ik was al die tijd in de veronderstelling dat de titel aan het silhouet van dit meisje gekoppeld was….maar de ‘M.’ staat heel duidelijk voor het land en de revolutionaire strijders in die periode.

 

BK:

Inderdaad. Ik kwam haar, en een groepje andere schoolmeisjes, op het eind van de reis tegen, op Ilha de Mozambique – een eiland, de voormalige hoofdstad in feite, in het Noorden van het land. Op dat moment was ik alleen en vanwege de taalbarrière kon ik niet met ze praten. Dat op zich al was fascinerend.

 

MT:

Op het eerste gezicht leg je die verbinding tussen titel en afbeeldingen op het omslag, maar interessant is dat er een diepere laag is, een andere associatie.

 

We kijken nog even naar de achterkant van het omslag. De uitgever staat in een piepklein lettercorps vermeld: f0.23.publishing. Is dit een vorm van uitgeven in eigen beheer? 

BK:

f ‘nul’ ‘drieentwintig’ is het! Een uitgeverij die ik zelf heb opgezet en nodig had om ISBN nummers aan te vragen, voor boeken in eigen beheer. ‘0.23’ is gestolen van Uitgeverij 010. ‘023’ is het netnummer van Haarlem! En vervolgens koppel ik het netnummer aan een diafragma waarde. Ik moest het snel bedenken, in het kader van een subsidieaanvraag. Ik heb die naam bedacht toen ik A Possible Life samenstelde. Ik zou het leuk vinden om eveneens boeken uit te geven van andere mensen. Het is altijd een geldkwestie.

 

MT:

Hoe verhoudt dit boekje zich dan tot de eerdere uitgave A Possible Life en het nog te verschijnen Il m’a sauvé (2016)?

 

BK:

A Possible Life was genomineerd voor de DutchDoc prijs. Dat boek gaat over een vriend van mij uit Niger. Hij woonde tien jaar illegaal in Nederland. Ik heb foto’s van hem genomen, gecombineerd met privé-foto’s en documenten, en met brieven van zijn kinderen aan hem. Het was een heftig onderwerp; het boek gaat over illegaliteit. En wat het betekent als je gescheiden bent van je vrouw, je kinderen.

 

Looking for M. is lichtvoetiger van aanpak. Hoewel ik al heel lang met Mozambique bezig was, en het serieuze materie is, wilde ik een moeiteloos project. Er naar toe reizen en kijken wat we aantreffen. Ook vanuit het idee om Afrika eens niet zo zwaar van toon te benaderen.

 

Il m’a sauvé is een vervolg op A Possible Life. Met de vormgever van dat boek, Annette Kouwenhoven, ben ik naar Niger gegaan. Jean Gualbert was toen teruggekeerd naar Niger, inmiddels woont hij weer in Nederland, waar hij een tijdelijke verblijfsvergunning heeft gekregen. In Niger hebben we zijn familie gesproken, zodoende werd Il m’a sauvé een aanvulling op A Possible Life. We hebben zijn kinderen en andere familieleden geïnterviewd; wat is de impact van de afwezigheid van hun vader op het gezin? Het gaat veelal over geld, er worden kleine leugens vertelt, noem maar op. Het vervolg op Il m’a sauvé zal gaan over informele economie; hoe mensen hier illegaal verblijven en hun families daar onderhouden. Al die lagen willen we in het project onderzoeken. Looking for M. is ‘ertussendoor’ tot stand gekomen.
 

MT:

Dan is er dat pamflet bijgesloten; ik vind het een subtiel document; er zit veel in. De voorpagina van het bijgesloten katern op grijs papier is een reproductie van, wat ik eruit opmaak, een aanbevelingsbrief voor jouw verblijf in Mozambique, in augustus 2013. Waar diende dat document precies voor?

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BK:

Het document is bedoeld voor fotojournalisten om min of meer vrijelijk te kunnen fotograferen in Mozambique. In principe is het zonder accreditatie, uitgegeven door het Ministerie van Informatie om het mogelijk te maken op straat te fotograferen, maar er zijn allerlei restricties. Soms houden corrupte militairen je aan en vragen wat je aan het doen bent. En als je dan de taal niet machtig bent…Die brief hielp daar wel bij. De accreditatie moet je in Maputo aanvragen. De procedure is traag. Aanvankelijk dachten we, we doen het niet. We hadden het document nodig om de oud-strijders van FRELIMO te kunnen fotograferen. Officieel maken zij nog deel uit van FRELIMO en hebben een verblijfsplaats toegewezen gekregen. En ik wilde de veteranen per se fotograferen. Hiervoor is officieel toestemming nodig van FRELIMO, de partij die nog altijd aan de macht is. We hebben een dag gewacht op de accreditatie, de kosten ervan zijn normaliter 30 euro’s. Uiteindelijk kwam een hogere ambtenaar het document ondertekenen en hoefden we niet te betalen. Toen kon ik aan de slag.

 

MT:

Ja, mooi als opening van de publicatie: dit document had jij nodig om bij dit onderwerp te kunnen komen…

En dan komen we bij die grappige naam: ‘Eisenloeffel’. Moet er geen umlaut op de ‘o’: betekent de achternaam niet ‘lepel’ in het Duits?

 

BK:

Nee, dat vertelde zijn weduwe, Immeke Sixma, mij; de connectie met het Duits ligt gevoelig!

 

MT:

En wie is Frits Eisenloeffel, die in 1974 voor het eerst naar Mozambique afreisde? Dat laatste maak je meteen op uit de ‘tijdslijn’, zo noem ik het maar. In het pamflet staat ook een stuk dat hij schreef in Het Parool van 28 juli 1975. Het jaar dat Mozambique onafhankelijk werd verklaard.

BK:

Frits studeerde politicologie aan de UvA. Hij studeerde af op Internationale Betrekkingen. In die periode raakte hij geïnteresseerd in de onafhankelijkheidstrijd in Afrikaanse landen. Tijdens zijn studie is hij in aanraking gekomen met geradicaliseerde Portugese deserteurs in Parijs. Hij raakte geïnteresseerd in en schreef over Portugal, toen nog een fascistische staat. Op het moment dat de Anjerrevolutie plaatsvond (25 april 1974) in Portugal, een opstand van lage officieren, die er genoeg van hadden dat zij de prijs betaalden voor die koloniale oorlogen, heeft een machtswisseling plaatsgevonden. Dat was het einde van de fascistische staat. Hij maakte samen met fotograaf Han Singels verschillende reizen naar Portugal. Tijdens de Anjerrevolutie ging Frits E. met een militair transport naar Mozambique (in mei 1974), Guinee-Bissau en de Kaapverdische eilanden (in augstus 1974). Hier begon hij met het schrijven van verhalen over deze landen in transitie.
Frits werkte in die tijd als freelancer voor b.v. de Groene Amsterdammer, het Parool en Avenue.

 

MT:

Maar waar kwam die interesse vandaan?

 

BK:

Na een studiereis naar Egypte, onder Nasser, in 1965 raakte Frits E. geïnteresseerd in verzetsbewegingen in Latijns-Amerika en de onafhankelijkheidsstrijd in Afrika. In zijn studietijd had hij kennelijk ook contacten met Portugese dienstweigeraars die zich bezighielden met de koloniale oorlogen.

 

MT:

Oké, dat als achtergrond. ‘A brief history’ is een tijdslijn in het pamflet, gebaseerd op de BBC en FRELIMO Terceiro Congresso, gepubliceerd in 1978. Wat zijn dit voor bronnen?

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BK:

Kijk, ik heb ‘m meegenomen: dit is een propagandaboek, uitgegeven ter gelegenheid van een derde congres van de bevrijdingsbeweging. Er staat een uitgebreide tijdslijn in. FRELIMO had een aantal partijcongressen gehouden. In 1977 is officieel de marxistisch-lenistische doctrine aangenomen. En wat betreft de BBC: een BBC website heb ik geraadpleegd waarop een tijdslijn staat, die ik integraal heb overgenomen. (Dat mag eigenlijk niet). Ik ben me ervan bewust dat daar wel kritiek op zou kunnen komen, maar ik laat de tijdslijn beginnen in 1891, het jaar waarin de huidige grens van Mozambique werd vastgelegd.

 

MT:

Want?

 

BK:

Vanwege het ‘verzet’ dat al voor die tijd bestond, de geschiedenis van Mozambique reikt sowieso veel verder terug.

 

MT:

Ja, 734 na Christus!

 

BK:

Ja, dat zijn de eerste bronnen, uit orale overlevering.

 

MT:

Helder. Mooi om die bijzondere documentaire fotoboeken en tijdschriften in de post op te nemen. Is jouw tijdslijn er doorheen verweven?

En waarom maakte je in 1997 je eerste reis naar Mozambique, in 2000, drie jaar later, bracht je een tweede bezoek aan dat land; en in 2013, veel later, ga je opnieuw terug?

 

BK:

Heel concreet: ik had die tijdslijn nodig om gebeurtenissen te kunnen plaatsen; veel mensen kennen de geschiedenis van dit land niet. Het materiaal van Frits E. zit er doorheen, zo wordt duidelijk dat alles met elkaar is verweven. In 1997 studeerde ik in Zuid-Afrika, zoals ik zei, maakte een eerste bezoek en raakte overweldigd door het land, door de vriendelijkheid van mensen. Dat was relatief kort nadat de burgeroorlog was afgelopen. Mozambique was toen een vriendelijker land dan Zuid-Afrika. Apartheid was net afgeschaft, maar nog heel tastbaar op de universiteit: ik zat op een echte Afrikaner-universiteit. Je moest erg op je woorden passen. Sommige mensen waren niet gediend van Europeanen die de Afrikanen kwamen vertellen over hun geschiedenis. De kwestie lag gevoelig.

In 2000 was ik afgestudeerd aan de VU, mijn MA-scriptie ging over de rol van vrouwen in de onafhankelijkheidstrijd in Mozambique. In die tussentijd ben ik verschillende malen in Zuid-Afrika geweest, en maakte er de series ‘HIV’ (mijn afstudeeropdracht voor de KABK) en over arme blanken, in het verlengde van mijn thesis voor de Masteropleiding Photographic Studies.

 

MT:

Waarom ging je überhaupt naar Zuid-Afrika?

 

BK:

Dat was in het kader van een eerste uitwisseling tussen de VU en de Universiteit van Pretoria. Ondanks de culturele boycot heeft de VU die banden altijd behouden. Daarom kon ik probleemloos als eerste student van de faculteit geschiedenis van de VU daar naar toe. Na mijn studie in 2000 wilde ik een reis maken van Johannesburg tot Nairobi, over land. Ik had geschreven over Mozambique en wilde het nu met eigen ogen zien, het land doorkruisen.

 

Toen ik daar kwam vonden er grote en desastreuze overstromingen plaats, ik had niet door hoe ernstig de situatie was. Het Internet was nog niet zo groot… Ik wilde liftend naar Nairobi en reisde met een groepje backpackers. Ik wilde naar het Noorden reizen maar kwam noodgedwongen niet verder dan een plek waar de weg was weggeslagen door het water. We hebben zelfs een nacht tussen de vluchtelingen op straat geslapen en zijn toen teruggestuurd door militairen vanwege het gevaar van het natuurgeweld. Dat realiseerde ik me helemaal niet, dat was vrij naïef. Vervolgens ben ik via Zimbabwe teruggereisd naar het Noorden van Mozambique. Ik had langer willen blijven, vanwege de overstromingen was het verblijf beperkt tot Maputo en een stad in het Noorden: Tete.

 

Na 2000 heb ik fotojournalistiek werk in Zuid-Afrika gemaakt, de Master Photographic Studies in Leiden gedaan, het werk van Eisenloeffel beschreven en zijn archief ontsloten, en wilde nog een keer terug naar Mozambique om te fotograferen wat ik in de keren daarvoor had gemist. De herinneringen, die ik destijds niet heb kunnen vastleggen, wilde ik nu vastleggen.

 

MT:

Dit ging vooral over je eigen fotografisch werk maken, en het heden?

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BK:

Mijn vader overleed in de tijd dat ik aan het afstuderen was. Hij heeft mij kennis laten maken met fotografie. Mijn vader had, zoals veel mensen in de jaren 70 en 80, een doka. Als kind sprak me dat analoge procedé al aan. Sahel (1982) van Willem Diepraam was het allereerste fotoboek dat wij in huis hadden. Wij ontvingen het fotoboek van de Novib, net als elk jaar een kalender. Misschien dat in mijn onderbewuste al de verbinding is gelegd met jonge zwarte (school)kinderen die je stralend aanstaren!

Het was een roerige tijd, ik moest er even uit, uit het keurslijf van de universiteit en het studentenbestaan. Ik wilde vrijheid.

 

De reis in 2013 verliep heel anders: met een vriend, in een auto. Ik ben ouder, heb kinderen…meer verantwoordelijkheid. Ik stond daar anders in.

Toen ik weer foto’s van Mozambique zag, van Frits, dacht ik dat ik dit ‘verhaal’ maar eens moest oppakken, om de cirkel rond te krijgen. Op zoek naar het Mozambique dat ikzelf kende, dat Frits heeft gezien, en dat ik nooit heb gefotografeerd.

 

MT:

Even terug naar de historische context.

Frits E. beschrijft de periode van de dan al zittende overgangsregering van FRELIMO. Zou je kunnen uitleggen wat dat woord betekent. Het klinkt als een naam van een frisdrank!

 

BK:

FRELIMO is een afkorting van Frente de Libertação de Moçambique: het bevrijdingsfront van Mozambique, voortkomend uit het samengaan van drie andere politieke partijen. En de beweging is nog steeds aan de macht.

 

MT:

Ja, dat is ongelooflijk…FRELIMO werkte toen ondergronds aan de overgang van een staat van oorlog naar vrede, aan materiele problemen, diaspora – misschien bestond het begrip toen nog niet, maar daar ging het wel over – en hongersnood. Wat zijn ‘Dynamisation groups’? Frits E. spreekt van ‘autonome eenheden, vergelijkbaar met comités binnen FRELIMO (Frits zegt het zo mooi: “the most decentralized expression of popular power”).

 

BK:

De opkomst van FRELIMO is vrij complex: FRELIMO opereerde aanvankelijk vanuit het Noorden van Tanzania, dat was bevrijd gebied. De situatie was minder spectaculair dan je in de propaganda van FRELIMO leest. Ze oefenden daar enige invloed uit. FRELIMO wilde een socialistische maatschappij scheppen, vanuit Tanzania. En die ‘dynamiserings groepen’ zijn organisaties die werden opgezet in gebieden die nog niet bevrijd waren door FRELIMO. Dit heeft alles te maken met de overgangsfase. Het waren groepen waarin mensen zelf hun leiders konden kiezen. Die zaten in fabrieken, landbouwcollectieven, en dorpen. De bevolking wees de leiders aan.

 

MT:

Een soort vakbonden?

 

BK:

Ja, vergelijkbaar. En vanuit die groepen werden delen van het land bestuurd. De leiders hadden veelal een lidmaatschap van FRELIMO. Officieel opereerden zij onafhankelijk van de leer van FRELIMO en werkten zij aan een nieuwe samenleving. Zij zaten vooral in gebieden waar nog geen strijd was gevoerd tussen Portugal en FRELIMO.

 

MT:

Klinkt enigszins als zendingswerk…

 

BK:

Ja…Die groepen waren een vorm van buffers; mensen werden er klaargestoomd voor de socialistische ideologie. Een van de speerpunten van FRELIMO was het verzet tegen prostitutie, dat werd verboden toen zij aan de macht kwamen. Er werden een soort toneelvoorstellingen gegeven waarin tegen prostitutie, kapitalisme etc. werd gepropageerd. Om er voor te zorgen dat achtergebleven Portugezen niet zouden radicaliseren of reactionair gedrag zouden gaan vertonen. Ook waren er veel Mozambikanen die niets van FRELIMO wilden weten, niet socialistisch ingesteld waren. Later is Mondlane vermoord, waarschijnlijk door dissidenten binnen de beweging, in samenwerking met de geheime dienst van Portugal (PIDE). Er zijn veel machtsspelletjes gespeeld; kortom, die overgangsperiode was heel roerig. In 1977 is de doctrine officieel tot regeringsbeleid gemaakt. Die ‘dynamiserings groepen’ werden ook gebruikt om fabrieken draaiende te houden op het moment dat de Portugezen vertrokken, vraag is of ze daartoe in staat waren. In feite om het land, ook economisch, klaar te stomen voor wat komen gaat.

 

MT:

Sommige dingen weet je gewoon niet. Medio jaren 70 leefden 200.000 blanken in de Portugese kolonie. De helft ervan is dan al weggetrokken, schrijft Frits. Het gaat om mensen die hoog op de maatschappelijke ladder staan: Europese dokters, ingenieurs, docenten, makelaars, ambtenaren. Dat leverde nogal wat kritiek op. Ik vond deze zin veelzeggend: “ An average departing Portugese family has as many cubic metres of baggage as the total living space of an average (much larger) African family living in a slum”. (aldus een uitspraak van een jonge FRELIMO aanhanger, ergens in de havens van de hoofdstad). Zou je op die uitspraak willen reageren?

BK

De Portugezen hadden het natuurlijk beter dan de oorspronkelijke bewoners, net zoals dat het geval was in de andere koloniën. De macht was ongelijk verdeeld. Op het moment dat de overgang plaatsvond dienden zij te vertrekken; daar zit een heleboel haat en nijd. De uitspraak heeft betrekking op vluchtende Portugezen die bang waren voor een ‘Bijltjesdag’.

Tijdens de overgangsperiode was er veel angst onder de Portugezen, die leidde tot een massale exodus. De Portugezen zijn dus niet verjaagd, in tegenstelling tot veel berichtgeving. Vooral veel jonge Portugezen zijn gebleven; hele families raakten verscheurd, omdat kinderen die geboren waren in Mozambique zijn gebleven.

 

We spraken een vrouw, die in 1975 als meisje gevlucht was uit Mozambique, en nu is teruggekomen om een hotel te openen. In het hotel was een soort museum over Samora Machel ingericht, maar zij ondervond wel last van allerlei restricties. Door de crisis in Zuid-Europa keren sowieso veel Portugezen terug naar de voormalige kolonie. Daar liggen kansen. De overheid is echter terughoudend in het toelaten van Europeanen. Mensen worden letterlijk aan de grens tegengehouden. De meest aangrijpende foto’s zijn die van vluchtende Portugezen. Tegelijk heb ik begrip voor de uitspraak van die Afrikaan. Hij zal oprecht verbolgen zijn geweest. De Portugezen woonden immers in mooiere huizen, hadden het beter dan de Mozambikanen.

 

De president die aan de macht was toen ik in Mozambique was, voormalig minister van Binnenlandse Zaken in de regering Machel: Armando Guebuza, had een decreet uitgesproken: ‘24/20’. Iedere burger mocht maximaal 20kg bagage meenemen en moest binnen 24 uur het land uit zijn. Dat is pertinent onjuist. Portugezen waren welkom om te blijven, behalve reactionairen, groot-landbezitters en kapitalisten, die werden verdreven. Er deden een heleboel verhalen de ronde. Zo zouden de Portugezen beton door de liftschachten van een groot hotel hebben gestort om het op die manier onbruikbaar te maken.
De uittocht werd versterkt door de val van het fascistisch regime en de mislukte coupe van september 1974, waarover Eisenloeffel ook schreef (een coupe door reactionaire Portugezen).


MT:

Ja, je voelt de wrijving. Samora Machel was de nieuwe president, die vlak na de onafhankelijkheid het land intrekt en de toekomst met zijn burgers ging bespreken. Frits E. spreekt van zijn “impressive circus”. Wat bedoelt hij daarmee? Hoe moet je je dat voorstellen?

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BK:

Machel heeft Eduardo Mondlane opgevolgd. Hij was de militaire leider van FRELIMO en president van de eerste Republiek. Machel maakte in de aanloop naar de onafhankelijkheid een zegetocht door het land. Dat werd een soort mediacircus, waarbij hij toespraken hield en een plek bezocht waar een massaslachting heeft plaatsgevonden. Verder bezocht hij de strategische Cahora Bassadam, een energiecentrale die FRELIMO trachtte te vernietigen omdat de Portugezen daar hun stroom vandaan haalden. De zegetocht had een enorme symbolische waarde. Machel was mediageniek, een knappe man die tot de verbeelding sprak. Tijdens zijn regime heeft de gewapende strijd een enorme vlucht genomen. Hij wordt daarom nog altijd geëerd. Eisenloeffel reisde mee met het mediacircus, met een filmploeg.

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MT:

Interessant om die verbanden te kunnen leggen. Laten we dat beeld vasthouden: Machel en zijn mediacircus. In het kleine pamflet – dat zo compact is en zoveel informatie verschaft – is ook een genummerde foto-index opgenomen. Wat opvalt is dat Looking for M. opent – getuigend van een zekere bescheidenheid – met een krantenfoto en copyright stempel van Frits Eisenloeffel. Waarom?

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BK:

Het is een fragment uit De Groene Amsterdammer. Het copyright stempel is van Frits, het bijschrift ‘photographs must be returned’, is afkomstig van een persfoto waarop Machel samen met Mondlane te zien is. En de opname komt weer terug in een van mijn foto’s. Historisch en juridisch gezien was het niet correct, maar het paste zo mooi bij de wens: niet terug naar de fotograaf, maar naar het land. Merkwaardig genoeg was er ook een militair die ons aanhield en begon te fulmineren dat fotografen altijd maar foto’s kwamen nemen van de mensen in Mozambique en verder niets terug gaven.

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Ik kwam pas later op het idee om de foto’s van Frits en mij te gaan combineren. En tegelijk is het een ode aan zijn werk; een manier om zijn oeuvre meer publiekelijk te maken. Hij was er eerder, in Mozambique, vandaar begint het verhaal chronologisch met de foto’s van Frits en het eindigt met een documentje van mij: het entreekaartje van het Museum van de Revolutie. Frits heeft zich tien jaar intensief beziggehouden met Afrika, en heeft indertijd gepubliceerd in bladen als Avenue, Het Parool en De Groene, maar op deze manier wordt dat deel van zijn werk in een nieuwe context geplaatst. Het betreft overigens zijn vroegste werk.

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MT:

Nog een enkele vraag over jouw tekst in dit boekje. Jij beschrijft in het pamflet hedendaags Mozambique veertig jaar later. En opent met de vermelding van een paradox tussen, aan de ene kant opzichtig kapitalisme in het straatbeeld, en aan de andere kant de (lit)tekens van de gewapende revolutie toentertijd en van de inmiddels verlaten Marxistisch-lenistische ideologie, in standbeelden en muurschilderingen. Zou je die paradox enigszins kunnen toelichten?

 

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BK:

De muurschilderingen zijn een essentieel onderdeel van het Mozambikaanse straatbeeld en van de geschiedenis van het land. Dit wordt mooi uitgelegd door Paul Fauvet die ik heb ontmoet in Maputo. In alle grote steden en plaatsen vindt je muurschilderingen. In deze schilderingen werd op een prachtige wijze geageerd tegen de bourgeoisie en het verhaal van de revolutie verteld. Als in een stripverhaal wordt die geschiedenis uitgelegd. Misschien is het beeldverhaal bedoeld voor ongeletterden. Veel van die muurschilderingen blijken gebaseerd te zijn op foto’s. Foto’s die in de pers naar buiten zijn gebracht. Het is echt prachtig.

 

De toenmalige leiders zijn nu nog steeds aan de macht. Dat is fascinerend. Onder president Chissano liet FRELIMO het Marxisme-leninisme achter zich, maar veel van de oude heren zitten nog op het pluche. Verder spreekt vooral Samora Machel – hij is echt de vader des vaderlands – nog altijd tot de verbeelding. Hij is charmant, heeft sexappeal; hij is echt het symbool van het land. Deze vorm van persoonsverheerlijking speelde nog niet in de tijd dat Mondlane de beweging leidde.

 

Nu zie je een enorme influx van het kapitaal. De Mozambikaan is tegenwoordig niet per se geïnteresseerd in de historie van de revolutionaire strijd. Je ziet dat vooral jongeren geïnteresseerd zijn in een carrière, het verdienen van geld en in hun telefoon. Dat is in het straatbeeld te zien. Mensen lopen achteloos langs de muurschilderingen. Voor Frits stonden deze schilderingen voor de toekomst, voor mij eerder voor het verleden. Daarom heb ik ook bewust de muurschildering van R. Kelly in het boek opgenomen. Die schildering komt uit het hart van de jeugd. Verder zien we reclames, ook in de vorm van muurschilderingen. Rondom een standbeeld van Machel in Beira staan ‘standbeelden’ van flessen Coca Cola. Ik heb dit monument niet opgenomen in mijn boek. En inmiddels zijn er meer muurschilderingen van mCel en Vodacom dan van Samora Machel. De mobiele telefonie-aanbieders zijn meer aanwezig dan de revolutionairen. De geschiedenis lijkt daarmee enigszins te vervagen; je moet er naar op zoek. En waar voorheen Mondlane op de voorgrond trad, lijkt het er nu op dat nieuwe standbeelden van Machel een prominente plek innemen.

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MT:

Zou je wat meer kunnen vertellen over de oprichter van FRELIMO en het prototype van de moderne oppositieleider: Eduardo Mondlane? Nu enkel nog een schim, een vaag historisch figuur, schrijf je.

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BK:

Eduardo Mondlane was een intellectueel; een doctor in de antropologie, hij sprak goed Engels. Hij genoot een opleiding in Zuid-Afrika, werkte voor de V.N. in de Verenigde Staten en huwde een Amerikaanse. Daarna, kwam hij terug naar Mozambique, om vanuit Tanzania de beweging te leiden. Toen FRELIMO in 1962 voortkwam uit de fusie van drie andere partijen werd Mondlane gesteund door president Julius Nyerere van Tanzania; hij was gekozen als leider. Mondlane is dus de oprichter van de partij, maar in die tijd opereerde FRELIMO vooral vanuit Tanzania.

 

Hij was anders dan Machel, die was opgeleid tot verpleger. Ik was heel benieuwd hoe de Mozambikanen dat verschil ervoeren tussen Mondlane en Machel. Volgens een Mozambikaanse barman was Mondlane de theoreticus die aan de hand van een theoretisch raamwerk uitdacht hoe de eerste stappen richting onafhankelijkheid te maken, en was de commandant van de strijdkrachten: Machel, de persoon die daadwerkelijk de oorlog heeft gevoerd.

 

Toen Mondlane aan de macht was, bleek er een enorme interne machtsstrijd gaande. Mondlane is in 1969 vermoord door een bombrief in Dar es Salaam –waarschijnlijk door de geheime dienst van Portugal, en door FRELIMO dissidenten. Na zijn dood volgde een machtsstrijd tussen Uria Simango, de vice-president, en Samora Machel. Laatstgenoemde won. Simango werd van verraad beschuldigd en na een showproces geëxecuteerd. Het doet enigszins denken aan het verhaal van Lenin en Stalin en Trotsky. Mondlane bleek geen fan te zijn van sommigen die na hem aan de macht kwamen en in zijn boek The Struggle for Mozambique staat hij zij aan zij met Simango. In een latere stripversie staat Simango nergens afgebeeld. Toch behoorde Simango tot een ander kamp dan Mondlane en Machel, die het land wilden hervormen naar een socialistische staat, Simango daarentegen wilde de blanke elite verruilen voor een zwarte elite.

Ik heb altijd het gevoel dat Mondlane een ietwat meer gematigd figuur was dan Machel en ben benieuwd hoe hij het land na de onafhankelijkheid zou hebben geleid. Welke richting FRELIMO dan gevolgd zou hebben…

 

MT:

Vanwege zijn plotselinge overlijden?

 

 

BK:

Ja…En wat betreft dat vervagen van Mondlane als historisch figuur… Niet alleen Machel heeft een standbeeld, er is ook een standbeeld van Mondlane, geschonken door Noord-Korea. In 2010 zijn er in alle provincie hoofdsteden exacte replica’s van het oorspronkelijke door Noord-Korea geschonken standbeeld van Machel geplaatst en in Maputo zelf, zo’n honderd meter van het origineel werd een reusachtig nieuw exemplaar geplaatst. Machel is inmiddels een exportproduct, een soort Che Guevara. Mondlane is dat niet meer , en misschien nooit echt geweest. Hij stond vroeger op de bankbiljetten afgebeeld, nu is dat Machel. Je ziet ‘m hooguit af en toe op een muurschildering, of in een school hangt een foto van hem.

 

MT:

In het begin van ons gesprek heb je al verteld waarom je in 1997 besloot, als student geschiedenis, zelf naar Mozambique te reizen. Ik wil toch even terugkomen op dat documentje dat je hebt opgenomen achterin het boek. Dat vertegenwoordigt, lijkt mij, een heel bijzonder moment voor jou. Je was op dat moment de enige bezoeker van het Museum van de Revolutie in Maputo. Het gebouw was vervallen, een oude onafhankelijkheidsstrijder, in lompen gekleed, gaf je een rondleiding door de ‘geschiedenis van de onafhankelijkheidsstrijd’.

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BK:

Ik heb het museum twee keer bezocht. In 2013 was het dicht.
In 1997, studeerde ik, zoals ik al zei in Pretoria en had inmiddels mijn vakken afgerond. Een studievriend woonde in Maputo en ik was uitgenodigd daar langs te gaan, hij werkte overdag op de ambassade. Met de Lonely Planet in de hand bezocht ik allerlei plekken waaronder het vervallen museum van de revolutie en het natuurhistorisch museum. Het museum is zo typisch revolutionair artefact. Ik houd daarvan; musea die niet zo aantrekkelijk zijn voor de meeste toeristen. In El Salvador zag ik die ook. Van die slechte bordjes, vreemde objecten (wapens, pasjes, foto’s, vlaggen, maar ook een springtouw en de korte sportbroek van Machel) trof ik aan. Sommige zaalteksten waren rechtstreeks overgenomen uit Mondlane’s boek. Pas toen ik mij aan de Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam met Mozambique ging bezighouden viel alles op z’n plek.

 

Het feit dat de man, een oud-strijder in een half uniform, terplekke in het museum, voor mij uitliep en de lichten in de zalen ontstak, gaf een bijzonder gevoel. Alsof je teruggaat in de tijd; als een archeoloog die een ontdekking doet. Het museum was in de jaren zeventig opgericht. Er staan kanonnen, er hangen Koreaanse schilderijen. Fascinerend om te zien dat er ogenschijnlijk niets veranderd was sinds de opening van het museum. Vergane glorie. Toen ik in 2000 terugkwam, met meer historische kennis, kon ik alles wat tentoongesteld was veel beter plaatsen. In 2013 was het museum gesloten, in verband met een renovatie. En wat betreft dat kaartje: ten gevolge van de inflatie is de entreeprijs verhoogd; de oude prijs is doorgekrast op het entreekaartje.

 

MT:

Vertel alsjeblieft wat meer over het boek waar de oud-strijder, ik noem hem nu gemakshalve de ‘suppoost’, jouw op wees: The Struggle for Mozambique en dat is geschreven door Eduardo Mondlane zelf. En hoe de publicatie de basis vormde voor je MA-scriptie geschiedenis, waarin je de rol van vrouwen in de onafhankelijkheidsstrijd onderzoekt.

BK:

Vaak wordt The Struggle for Mozambique aangeduid als een autobiografie, maar het is in feite een heldere uiteenzetting van de geschiedenis van de strijd om Mozambique. Het Museum voor de Revolutie is voor een groot deel gebaseerd op deze publicatie. Zo raakte ik geïnteresseerd in de strijd om Mozambique. Ik was me aan het specialiseren in moderne Afrikaanse geschiedenis, in relatie tot het ANC in Zuid-Afrika, maar naar aanleiding van dat museumbezoek en de publicatie van Mondlane wilde ik hierover gaan schrijven. Mondlane was een voorstander van het verbeteren van de positie van vrouwen. Daarover gaat mijn scriptie. In eigentijdse propagandistische bladen als Mozambique Revolution werd aandacht besteedt aan de vrouwenbeweging, daarop ben ik dieper ingegaan. In de bevrijdde gebieden, kregen vrouwen in eerste instantie meer rechten. Ook werden vrouwen opgenomen in de zogenaamde Destacamento Feminino’ aangevoerd door Machel’s eerste vrouw Josina Machel. In Looking for M. staat een portret van een vrouw die in zo’n detachement heeft gezeten.

MT:

Dat vond plaats in 1999. Zes jaar later ontdek je het archief van de Nederlandse journalist Frits Eisenhoeffel (1944-2001). Het is me niet duidelijk wat zijn professie was. Was hij fotojournalist of schrijvend journalist?

 

BK:

Frits Eisenhoeffel (Frits E.) was schrijvend journalist en had beeld nodig bij zijn stukken…

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MT:

Want jij zet Frits E. als fotojournalist op de voorgrond.

 

BK:

Dat klopt ja, ik ben zijn fotografisch archief ingedoken.

 

MT:

Frits E. was begin jaren zestig geïnteresseerd in, toen, fascistisch Portugal en het verlies van haar grip op de koloniën. Vanwaar die bijzondere belangstelling van Frits E. voor dit land, in deze problematiek?

 

BK:

Zoals ik al zei, Frits kwam in contact met Portugese deserteurs. Zijn werk valt in twee delen uiteen: Zuidelijk Afrika, en in de jaren tachtig van de twintigste eeuw de oorlogen in Afrika, vooral de bevrijding van Eritrea. Tien jaar lang heeft hij de antiapartheidsstrijd gefotografeerd.

 

MT:

Hoe kwam je in aanraking met zijn archief?

 

BK:

Via Flip Bool (voormalig hoofdconservator collecties/archieven Nederlands Fotomuseum NFM, Rotterdam). Ik liep stage in het Nederlands Fotomuseum. Ik deed onderzoek naar Nederlandse fotografen in Afrika van 1840 tot nu. Flip Bool had contact gehad met de weduwe Immeke Sixma, vanwege haar verzoek zijn archief onder te brengen in het NFM. Flip Bool achtte het toen niet geschikt, maar wees mij er wel op. Immeke gaf mij vervolgens opdracht het archief te beschrijven en te ontsluiten. Met het oog daarop is een stichting is in het leven geroepen om het werk van Frits E. gemaakt in Afrika bij een breed publiek onder de aandacht te brengen. Uit 300.000 foto’s was een keuze gemaakt van 3.000 stuks, die zijn gescand. Later heb ik de geselecteerde foto’s aan de hand van publicaties, tijdschriften, en dagboeken in een fotoprogramma beschreven. Mozambique is daar slechts een klein onderdeel van: ongeveer 200 foto’s. Een deel daarvan is beschikbaar gemaakt door het Internationaal Instituut Sociale Geschiedenis (IISG) in Amsterdam, in de vorm van een digitale tentoonstelling. Het instituut heeft de collectie van Frits E. integraal verworven.

 

MT:

Je hebt de gegevens in een databank opgenomen?

 

BK:

Ja! In FotoStation, een software programma waar Hollandse Hoogte ook meewerkt.

 

MT:

Hoe lang heb je hieraan gewerkt?

 

BK:

Zo’n anderhalf jaar, gedurende een dag per week.

 

MT:

Straks gaan we meer op zijn afzonderlijke foto’s in, ook in vergelijking met jouw werk.

Er is nog een begrip dat Frits introduceert. Wat moeten we verstaan onder de ‘Carnation Revolution’ van april 1974? Ik lees: een militaire coup van links progressieven, zonder bloed vergieten.

BK:

Carnation Revolution is de eerder genoemde geweldloze Anjerrevolutie van 25 april 1974. Deze revolutie leidde het einde in van een jarenlang fascistisch bewind. Lagere Portugese officieren kwamen in Portugal in opstand uit frustratie over de hoge prijs die, vooral door hen, betaald werd tijdens de koloniale oorlogen. Frits had contacten en interesse in de bevrijdingsstrijd. Hij besloot mee te reizen met een militair transport om verslag te doen. Eerst in het West-Afrikaanse Guinee-Bissau en later in Mozambique. De andere zuidelijk Afrikaanse landen volgden later.

 

MT:

Vlak daarna reist Frits E. naar Mozambique en Guinee-Bissau om verslag te doen van de politieke omwentelingen voor Het Parool en De Groene Amsterdammer. Waar ligt dat?

 

BK:

Aan de Westkust, bij Senegal.

 

MT:

Fotografie is ingezet voor partijpolitieke propaganda, daar wees je ook op in relatie tot het tijdschrift Mozambique Revolution. HOE dan?

th

BK:

FRELIMO had ook steun vanuit het buitenland nodig. Veel buitenlandse anti-imperialistische actiegroepen (zoals de Eduardo Mondlane Stichting – later opgegaan in het NIZA) verspreidden tijdschriften (Mozambique Revolution is de bekendste), posters etc. Daarin werd veel gebruik gemaakt van werk van Mozambikaanse fotografen. Kok Nam, Ricardo Rangel en anderen staan in dat land voor een sterke foto-journalistieke traditie. Vraag is in hoeverre hun foto’s werden afgedrukt in de propagandistische tijdschriften van FRELIMO, die ze wereldwijd naar antiapartheidsorganisaties stuurde. Fotografie speelde daarin een belangrijke rol, om de wandaden van Portugal te tonen en de manier waarop FRELIMO opereerde in bevrijdde gebieden. Desalniettemin waren er ook veel buitenlandse fotografen die foto’s maakten. De Zweed Anders Johansson, de bekende Afrikanist Basil Davidson, de totaal vergeten Japanse fotograaf Tadahiro Ogawa, maar ook Koen Wessing en Frits Eisenloeffel. De foto’s van Frits verschenen destijds, meen ik, op een actieposter. Het werk van Frits werd echter niet door FRELIMO of de MPLA gebruikt.

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MT:

Wat valt er te zeggen over de neef van Frits E., de professionele fotograaf Koen Wessing? Van hem verschijnt, nota bene in 1974, bij de Bezige Bij in Amsterdam Chili september 1973. En, lees ik in Wessing’s biografie, vertrok hij datzelfde jaar in opdracht van het Angola Comité naar Guinee-Bissau. Wie ging met wie mee?

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BK:

Frits en Koen zijn daar niet tegelijkertijd geweest. Frits is in Guinee-Bissau in eerste instantie geweest om samen met anderen in opdracht van de VPRO een film te maken. Koen Wessing is een volle neef van Frits Eisenloeffel. Frits leerde het fotograferen van Han Singel, Joost Guntenaar en Koen Wessing. Wessing heeft inderdaad na zijn markante publicatie over Chili Djarama PIAGC gemaakt, in opdracht van het Angola Comité, naar aanleiding van het eenjarige bestaan van de Republiek. De publicatie, meer een cahier, heeft hetzelfde formaat als Chili, september 1973, maar de vormgeving is kwalitatief minder hoogwaardig. Ik denk dat de geestdrift die in Chili, september 1973 aanwezig is ontbreekt in Djarama PIAGC. Ik heb ergens gelezen dat op het moment dat Wessing deze foto’s maakte, Angola, net als Mozambique, de facto al onafhankelijk was. Portugal erkent de onafhankelijkheid van Guinee-Bissau in september 1974. Op het moment van verschijnen van Djarama PIAGC viert Guinee-Bissau de onafhankelijkheidsverklaring van de Republiek, die een jaar geleden officieel plaatsvond.

MT:

Ik vroeg me af in hoeverre beïnvloedt zo’n boekje als Chili, september 1973 iemand als Frits E.?

 

BK:

Ik denk dat ze het engagement deelden. Frits heeft overigens nooit fotoboeken gemaakt. Frits heeft wel een verhaal over Guinee-Bissau geschreven in de Groene Amsterdammer op 15 mei 1974, waarin foto’s van Koen Wessing staan. Dat was voordat het boekje Djarama PIAGC uitkwam.

 

MT:

Dus er was sprake van een soort kruisbestuiving!

Vanwaar was het catalogiseren van het foto-journalistieke oeuvre van Frits E. een katalysator om in 2013 opnieuw naar Mozambique te reizen?

BK:

Het archiveren van zijn werk riep een herinnering op. Door al die foto’s te bekijken voelde ik de behoefte weer terug te gaan. De herkenbaarheid van de beelden, de herinneringen die de beelden en teksten of dagboeken van Frits opriepen, en de herinnering aan mijn MA-scriptie, zetten mij ertoe om het land weer te bezoeken en te gaan vastleggen wat ik tijdens mijn eerdere reizen had gezien, maar niet gedocumenteerd. In die zin slaat de ‘M.’ in de titel zeker ook op ‘Memories’…Maar ook op ‘Mondlane’, ‘Machel’, en ‘Mozambique’. Dat gaf mij het gevoel dat ik dit hoofdstuk kon afsluiten.

 

MT:

Het volgende citaat is passend op dit moment in het gesprek. Zou je het kunnen toelichten? “The concept of Looking for M. is a conscious departure from the traditional journalistic method, being rather a personal and almost anachronistic approach in which both substantive and aesthetic synergy arises between the artistry and perception of two Dutch photographers working in different areas.” Hier breng je jullie beide samen en de perceptie van beide op Mozambique, er zit weliswaar veertig jaar tussen. Je beschrijft de waarde ervan, in tamelijk zware termen. De benadering is ‘persoonlijk’, ‘anachronistisch’, en ‘substantieel’ en ‘esthetisch’.

 

BK:

Op een geforceerde manier breng ik foto’s die destijds gemaakt zijn samen met mijn foto’s. Soms vullen de foto’s elkaar inhoudelijk aan, zoals in de foto’s van komende en gaande mensen in de havens van Maputo. Dan weer is sprake van overeenkomst in vorm. Zo is hier links een portret van een oud-strijder afgebeeld, een veteraan, en hij heeft misschien wel gevochten tegen deze militair op de rechterpagina.

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In mijn eerste dummy heb ik de foto’s van Frits nog niet gebruikt.
In de dummies die daarop volgden heb ik de selecties op basis van esthetische gronden (denk aan hoe Stephen Gill het boek Let’s sit down before we go van Bertien van Manen samenstelde) gemaakt. Er was soms sprake van een opvallende gelijkenis tussen de voorstellingen op de foto’s van ons beide, die ik absoluut niet van tevoren had bedacht.

MT:

Laten we dit verder bespreken aan de hand van beeldmateriaal. Hoe plaats jij het werk van Frits E. in een nieuwe context, in Looking for M? En WAT zien we in jouw werk; waar kijken we naar? En dan komen we vanzelf te spreken over dat schoolmeisje, met zo’n grappige gele button op haar jurkje. Laten we dat bespreken aan de hand van een aantal dubbele paginaopmaken. De nummering van de foto’s ontbreekt op de fotopagina’s, dat maakt het wat lastig; je moet echt je best doen.

BK:

Frits werkte als journalist en zijn foto’s waren destijds bedoeld om mensen te informeren over de situatie toen. Nu krijgt zijn werk gedeeltelijk een andere betekenis, doordat zijn journalistieke beelden aan mijn documentaire foto’s worden gekoppeld. De cultuurhistorische context verandert en daarmee wellicht ook de interpretatie van de beelden.

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De tekst ‘return to sender’ komt van een veelgebruikte persfoto van een onbekende fotograaf, die ik op een gegeven moment heb gekocht. De stempel slaat op het terugbrengen van de foto naar de ‘bron’, hetzij de fotograaf, hetzij een archief. Frits wilde echter ook dat zijn foto’s gezien zouden worden door de mensen wie het daadwerkelijk betrof.

De persfoto, waar Eduardo Mondlane en Samora Machel samen op staan, is gemaakt in Tanzania. En kijk, dit bedoel ik met die muurschilderingen: hieruit blijkt ook weer dat Machel de logische opvolger is van Mondlane. Er zijn niet zoveel foto’s gebruikt waar ze samen opstaan.

 

MT:

Een meester-gezel verhouding, zogezegd. Oh, de muurschildering is daadwerkelijk gemaakt naar deze foto!

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BK:

Ja. Vele mensen die de geschiedenis van Mozambique kennen, zullen deze foto herkennen. De Zuidafrikaan Albie Sachs heeft zelfs een publicatie uitgebracht over de specifieke Mozambikaanse muurschilderingen Images de Uma Revolução (1983). De foto’s in dat boek zijn gemaakt door Susan Meiselas. In het fotoboek is haar naam aangeduid als ‘Susan Maiselas’.

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MT:

Mooi dat je dit vermeld!

 

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En dan…welk nummer? Ik had de fotopagina’s gewoon moeten nummeren! Ik vermoed dat dit ook een zogeheten dynamizing group is. Collectief wordt er gewerkt aan een weg. Frits beschreef lang niet alles; dus dit is een foto waarmee ik het moet doen. En dit vond ik zelf een mooie landschapsfoto. Als je nu door Mozambique rijdt wordt overal aan wegen gebouwd, onder toezicht van Chinese opzichters. Frits E. werkte, zoals veel fotografen uit zijn tijd, in zwart-wit. Deze opname is in kleur; veel mensen denken daarom dat ik die heb gemaakt!

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Hier zie je het contrast heel sterk. Dit is een zwembad op het dak van een duur hotel in Maputo. We zien een migrant die het zwembad onderhoudt. En deze foto is gemaakt in het Grand Hotel in Beira: een megalomaan Portugees project uit de jaren vijftig. Een heel groot hotel is het, dat nooit goed heeft gelopen en daarom meteen failliet is verklaard. En later is gekraakt. Vergelijkbaar met Ponte City in Zuid-Afrika! Dit is het eerste Olympische zwembad in Mozambique. Nu doen mensen daarin de was. Tijdens de overgangsperiode was FRELIMO hier gezeteld. Beide foto’s heb ik gemaakt.

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MT:

Het is dus niet altijd TOEN en NU op het formaat van een dubbele pagina?

 

BK:

Nee, niet altijd.

 

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Ik vermoed dat dit een voorstelling is in het kader van een dynamiseringsgroep. Waarin bijvoorbeeld werd verteld wat er fout was aan het kapitalisme. Het zou ook een feestelijke bijeenkomst kunnen zijn. En hier zie je spelende kinderen in Beira.

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MT:

Het spelkarakter, het speelse hebben de beelden met elkaar gemeen….

 

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Dit is een oud FRELIMO strijder, die nog altijd de baas is en met veel ontzag wordt benaderd. Hij is nog altijd de commandant, en deed het woord. Hij leeft in een dorp voor de veteranen.

En de vrouw afgebeeld naast ‘the school girl’ is een oud-strijdster uit het vrouwen detachement. Gisteren keek ik weer eens naar Sahel, het fotoboek van Diepraam, en op de achterkant staat een blinde vrouw afgebeeld. Deze foto doet me daaraan denken. Wellicht een clichématige referentie die er onbewust is ingeslopen.

 

MT:

Dit is een van de weinige momenten dat je een panoramisch zwart-wit fotootje klein op de bovenste helft van de witte pagina afdrukt. De man rechts, in uniform, is een Che Chevara type.

 

BK:

Opdat je niet ‘in het beeld’ hoeft te draaien. En de militairen hebben allebei een droevige blik, de houding is zelfs vergelijkbaar.

 

MT:

De lichaamstaal komt overeen.

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Ja. De vrouw met het kindje valt een beetje weg tegen de muurschildering. Ik heb daar een tijdje gestaan met mijn camera. Mensen lopen er achteloos langs. Ertegenover staat een zwart-wit foto van Portugese militairen die luisteren naar een toespraak van Machel.

 

MT:

En Machel is afgebeeld op de muurschildering?

 

BK:

Ja, in die zin komen de foto’s weer overeen. Maar dit zijn wel boeven, toch?

 

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Die jongens staan op een vuilnisbelt en zijn op zoek naar bruikbare materialen, om speelgoed van te maken. Deze opname is gemaakt op een vrij toeristische plek in het Noorden Pemba. Mozambique heeft een mooie kustlijn. En die kinderen, gefotografeerd door Frits, poseren op eenzelfde manier.

 

MT:

Dat verandert niet door de tijd heen….

 

BK:

Nee…

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Links zie je een fotowinkel gerund door een Chinees. Verderop, buiten beeld, hangt een portret van de nieuwe president. Hier zie je een portret van Mondlane. Ik dacht die koop ik, maar hij vroeg er 100 EUR voor. Er zijn nu veel Chinese invloeden in Mozambique. China heeft met dit land een andere relatie dan met Europa.

 

 

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Een detail van de Groene Amsterdammer. Sowieso vond ik het mooi om in het midden van het boek een variant op de eerste foto af te drukken, om te laten zien hoe de foto’s van Frits E. in de pers op de bladspiegel geplaatst werden. En beide personen, een echtpaar, heb ik afzonderlijk in Looking for M. geportretteerd.

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Dit is een teken van werkgelegenheid… Dit soort portretjes van Afrikanen worden veelal gekoppeld aan genocide. Dus zo’n foto heeft in eerste instantie een negatieve connotatie, maar dit zijn werknemers in een broodzaak die werd gerund door een Marokkaan uit Fes.

 

MT:

Oh ja, ik vind het een prachtige dubbele pagina.

Maar waarom worden de portretten van de werknemers van een bakkerswinkel daar zo uitgestald? Zijn het ID’s?

 

BK:

Ja, eer soort ID’s, een soort gezondheidsverklaringen die in die winkel hingen. Het zijn de medewerkers. De andere foto is vanuit een rijdende auto gemaakt en daarom enigszins onscherp. De Mozambikanen stoken op kolen. En de jonge vrouw op de foto is een verkoopster van kolen. Een vorm van economie op straat. En die kleuren, in beide foto’s, dat werkt goed samen.

 

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Dit zijn de schoenmaker en zijn vrouw, die eerder (op pagina 038-039) zijn afgebeeld op de persfoto van Frits E., die ik net beschreef, in het hart van het fotoboek.

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MT:

parents mourning’ is de titel.

 

BK:

Machel kwam tijdens zijn toespraak terug op de herdenking van de massamoorden, waarin hun enige twee zoons zijn omgekomen. En daartegenover staat een soort anachronistische reclamefoto van ‘R. Kelly’, een hedendaagse R&B zanger. Ook als tegenhanger van de overige muurschilderingen.

 

MT:

Dus deze muurschildering is veel eigentijdser dan die politieke, propagandistische

exemplaren. En dan tenslotte het schoolmeisje…We beginnen en eindigen met haar!

 

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Zij is een van de schoolmeisjes die ik aan het eind van mijn reis fotografeerde op Ilha de Mozambique. Haar naam is mij niet bekend. Ik had het ergens opgeschreven, maar ben dat papiertje kwijtgeraakt. Ik weet bijna zeker dat de button een clipje is om je telefoon aan te haken. Iedereen heeft een mobiele telefoon. Overal zie je telefoon reclames, zelfs de huizen zijn beschilderd in de kleuren van telefoonaanbieders.

 

 

 

 

 

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Today, one month before the first day of Christmas, I decided to make a selection of thirteen author/photographer books and one exhibition catalogue to represent the high quality of photobooks issued in the highly productive calendar year 2014. What is remarkable is that, except for the children’s book and the photo magazine for kids, all covers are extremely sober, some sheer gloomy. And one way or the other all of the bookworks deal with history and hierarchies, political issues, both local and global, with gender and everyday life, with surveillance and leisure. I will mention the publications in no particular order.  

 

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1. FRIET speciaal. Schrift voor kinderen over archeologie in Amsterdam en omstreken (French Fries special. Notebook for Kids on Archeology in Amsterdam and its Surrounding Areas) published by Van Zoetendaal and BMA. This booklet in a plain cardboard cover, is designed and published by Willem van Zoetendaal and reads like a primer for kids. It is a photo magazine for kids, containing numbered and free-standing objects (meticiously reproduced by Harold Strak) made of plastic material discovered at the Damrak and Rokin during the construction of the Noord/Zuidlijn (North-South Underground)  in 2003-2012. In the index, in the back of the cahier all the objects are clearly described, dated and measured. It goes like this: [25] Cracked red spoon 8,5cm long, 1950-2005; [23] Four dirty fries forks, of which two manufactured by Veriplast in Apeldoorn; [9] Two fragments, in different sizes, of a  broken comb. Red plastic, 3,3cm high, 1900-2005; [21] A piece from a KPN telephone card for 10,00 euro’s, decorated with a scene from a painting by Jan Steen. 2,5cm long, plastic, 1996-2005; [16] several fragments of celluloid film and black plastic holder, 1950-2005.

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2. I adore accordion folded photo books. Flipping through the pages of Contemporary Archeology, I wondered about various topics: ‘mental reconstruction’; usage of found and vernacular objects as well as personal documents; a self-made photographic reportage about the mummy transfer of Ramesses I; and the book project itself. I understand everything in the book relates to a CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) program in Karnak, in the south of Egypt where Olivier Cablat been working since October 2003.The way in which archeological findings from the Amsterdam Underground are reproduced and presented in FRIET speciaal is very similar to the method Olivier Cablat used in Contemporary Archaeology, published by RVB Books. Olivier started from raw material, found objects related to everyday life in contemporary Egypt; he made no hierarchical judgments about the nature of the material, and applied the same treatment to it as scientific researchers do to ancient artifacts. Olivier Cablat: “In the afternoon I used the same tools, the same light, the same technique, to record found objects in the street, in the garbage can at the office, or vernacular objects I bought at the corner shop, like my cigarettes packages”. Read all about it: A conversation with Olivier about this accordion fold.

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3. Southbound by Knut Egil Wang, I discoverd it at UNSEEN/Offprint art book fair. The funniest documentary photobook, I already spotted it online, is published by Journal in Sweden. This is a publishing house that makes exquisite photobooks (such as Trying to dance by JH Engstrom), but maintains low profile; e.g. Journal doesn’t attempt to increase its exposure through a website. Knut Egil Wang is a Los Angeles based Norwegian photographer with a surname that sounds Chinese. His documentary style has both a Martin Parr and Alec Soth edge to it. The narrative in this publication is related to local culture, warmer climate and simple amusement during ‘long dark winters’ in the Northern hemisphere. A small cute illustration of an aeroplane landing on the French title page and the bright yellow flyleaves introduce you to sunny destinations. We see elderly Western people in groups with Christmas hats on, poles in their hands, small backpacks on passing through a white wooden porch that looks like a misplaced prop in a movie like Paris Texas.

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4. The same counts for a three-volume publication Vienna MMix 10008/7000 in a sleeve published by Scheidegger & Spiess, I discoverd that numbered limited edition of 600 copies at East Wing Gallery during UNSEEN festival. Jules Spinatsch made 10.008 images, as part of what he called Surveillance Panorama Project at the Vienna Opera Ball. The Vienna State Opera was not amused with the end result, but did give permission for the project. Volume I, entitled Every Three Seconds, is bulky and dark green. It contains the integral sequence of the ten thousand pictures chronologically arranged in grids of 36 pictures on a spread.The images were made during an opera performance with two camera’s that moved every three seconds in a vertical line six positions downward along a rail, and up again after six shots. In this manner neither image selection nor editing took place. Volume III is a cahier containing two essays. One by neuroscientist Wolf Singer, who is exploring the transition of human perception in this age of social media and big data, and surveillance technology. Volume II entitled 71 photographs contains this exact amount of selected images, grainy and faded in colours: purplish, reddish, and yellowish, making them appear voyeuristic in nature.

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5. One more discovery at the UNSEEN festival/fair, last September in Amsterdam was a large-size children’s photobook, both conceptual and documentary in nature by the Slovakian female photographer Lucia Nimcova (1977). Animal Imago, published by sitcomm.sk & cee photofund, is containing pictures of abused, stuffed, encased, and misplaced animals in eastern and central Europe. We see a stuffed Nile crocodile in a shabby (what look like a natural history) museum presentation next to a stuffed monkey on the back of a scooter. Another double page shows a gracious grey cow’s head popping up behind a tree, opposite a sticky dead duck attacked by horseflies and dumped on a garbage can along a park lane. As is done with children’s books, the publication opens and ends with empty coloured pages, to make a drawing or take notes. There are no captions, and no other text. The publication Animal Imago is an ode to the photographer’s deaf-born son.

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6. And there is Pieter Hugo’s brand new oblong Aperture publication KIN. I bought at the gallery booth of Stevenson during Paris Photo. It reads like an album, I am pleasantly surprized. On the very first page Tasmyn Reynolds (it doesn’t say ‘my wife or girlfriend’) poses naked, with wet hair and pregnant with their first child. On another page his parents are portrayed, together in bed, all dressed, the mother with glasses on, the father with coffee cup in hand. After 10 pictures we see Hugo naked, lying down with his new-born daughter on his lap: a squirming little baby on top of his huge tattooed athletic body. While leafing through the pages I see his grand mother, his nanny, his second kid, and his extended family, and then the photographer just walks into the gallery booth. I turn around and there he is in person: the healthy looking tall blond Viking! I would not have recognised him otherwise. I say: “You must be Pieter Hugo, I just saw your portrait in your new book”. I asked him whether he speaks Dutch. “Ja”…. “My father was a French Huguenot”, he says in Afrikaans. I don’t get it all, but he continued explaining something like his family roots are in Denmark. Than I asked him how this publication came about. “Well, … in fact after the birth of my daughter six years ago. I’ve just seen the book once…well printed …paper a little thin.” I ask him what the three capital letters of which the title consists actually means: KIN. “Family in a broader sense… medemens!” [Fellow man], he exclaims. ‘KIN’ refers to ‘KINSHIP’, my partner explains a few days later on the phone. I requested Pieter to write that Dutch word in the copy of his book that I purchased on the spot, paying cash. With ‘medemens’ Paris Photo 2014 in Grand Palais starts. 

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7. 17.15 Friday November 14th, I am receiving an email in which Aperture announces The winner of The Photobook Awards. The First Photobook Award is for Hidden Islam (2013) by Nicolo Degiorgis and with good reason (even without the recommendation and foreword by Martin Parr). The publication was also awarded the author’s book award in Arles during the very last edition of the R.I.P. Nicolo was signing his books at Dirk Bakker’s booth at Paris Photo. Dirk handed me his plain textbook accompanying the already second edition of Hidden Islam. It contains 479 posts on an article entitled: ‘Arles 2014: Nicolo Degiorgis lifts the veil of Italy’s Islamophobia’, written by Sean O’Hagan for The Guardian, and published on July 15th, 2014. People had five days to leave comments. The insides of the fold out text pages show schematic drawings and coordinates, corresponding exactly with the number of pages, themes and locations in the awarded photobook. This is new; this has never been done before, to my knowledge. I buy the textbook in situ ( I purchased the first edition of Hidden Islam earlier this year) for 25,00 euro. He signs it with a pencil: ‘keep looking, Paris 15/11/2014.’

 

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8. Since the 2014 Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards is including ‘The Photography Catalogue of the Year’, I decided to select one: MODERN TIMES RIJKSMUSEUM, designed by Irma Boom and published by the Rijksmuseum in association with nai010publishers. Not everyone may know but a large collection of photography is in the keeping of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. A cross section of different formats, techniques and genres selected from the growing collection of 20th century photography is now exhibited in ‘Modern Times’. Divided over nine rooms of the brand new Philips wing 300 black-and-white and color photographs are mingled. Small insignificant work prints, prelimenary studies, advertising and vernacular photography are combined with  war-, street- and art photography. Dummies of photobooks, photo albums, scrapbooks, magazins and posters are displayed in window cases. Amateur- photography is intertwined with professional photography, as a token of equivalency. Irma is also responsable for the clear and clever environmental design of the exhibition. Knowing Irma Boom, she gets ‘carte blanche’, blowing up a detail from a nude portrait by Ger Fieret and juxtaposing it to a sliver from an icon of the New Photography. These full bleeds are like gongs banging in your eyes, both in the front and in the back of the bulky catalogue. Spreads from books like Naked City (1945) by Weegee, reproductions from magazines such as LIFE,  and even the front and back of the sleeve of Brian Ferry’s LP record Another Time, Another Place (1974)  are nicely clustered in the essays. And emerging from the matt black front cover is Olympic High Diving Champion Marjorie Gestring in 1936, photographed during class by John Gutmann. Her stretched out left arm and hand are an omen of Nazi Germany and the Third Reich. And what a contrast between the black surface and the coloured page edges in fluorescent yellow.

 

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9. I nominate two books by one author/photographer, Valerio Spada, as Best Photobooks of 2014. One is to be considered a re-worked and re-issued existing book title. Twin Palms Publishers just released the third edition, which is a first American edition, of Valerio Spada‘s well-received book Gomorrah Girl, and has issued his next publication entitled: I am Nothing. Both publications are dealing with the Mafia in southern Italy, both photobooks are telling a grim story on a father-daughter’s relationship, one in Naples (Gommorah Girl), the other in Sicily (I Am Nothing). Both titles are remarkable for their outstanding documentaries, graphic design and bookmaking. Read more in the conversation with Valerio about both publications.

 

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10. Karaoke Sunne by JH Engström and Margot Wallard (I don’t know who did what) is published by SuperLabo. I like the size of the booklet, the choice of paper, the swopping format from landscape to portrait on a spread. The beautiful black hard bound cover with the title embossed in silver. Just imagine a pizzeria turned into a karaoke bar on Saturday evenings, in the outskirts of Sweden. Color photographs show this mixture of sadness and joy in Karaoke bars: people drinking, smoking, showing their tatooed bodies, clinging to each other, hands grabbing body parts, grubby faces loosing themselves for a second in front of the microphone. Just on the fly leafs, a small white cross scribbled on a google maps reproduction of Sweden indicates where it all happens.

 

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11. Max Pinckers‘ recent publication Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty is just like The Fourth Wall self-published, designed by Jurgen Maelfeyt, and India is the focus. The edition of 1000 copies was commissioned by Europalia International Arts Festival / Centre of Fine Arts in Brussels. First the portfolio and then the book have been praised by both Martin Parr and Alec Soth. The author Hans Theys describes the project and levels in the layout so well in his essay ‘Photographs as Poems’ printed on salmon pink thin paper in the back of the book, resonating the commercial slogan ‘visit colourfull India’. Here is a quote:

For his most recent work, Max Pinckers (born in Belgium in 1988, but raised in Asia), traveled to India for months, accompanied by his partner Victoria Gonzalez-Figueras. There he has attempted to document, capture, stage and bring to life various specific aspects of love and marriage. Searching through newspapres and magazins, watching films and roaming through cities, he has been looking for subjects  that suited his theme, such as couples on their honeymoon at the foot of the Himalayas, men on white horses, Victoria’s (carts on which newlyweds strut around), photo studios where couples have their portraits taken, strange decors for marriage ceremonies, a stranded photograph of a married couple (which is offered to to a river, lake or sea after their death), a set of discarded photos from a studio next to the Taj Mahal and many other things. […] Another series of ‘images’ consist of vertically arranged, bleeding texts, extracted from the weblog of the Love Commandos. Together with the documentary sequences, they seem to weave a basic grid for the book. There is also a set of ‘images’ consisting of found material. These can be found documents, but also found photographs or ‘found footage’ such as inscriptions in bamboo trees or on posters on walls. […] A last series of images consist of idealized digital landscapes retrieved from a photo studio, where they are used as backfrops for portraits.  

 

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 12. In my copy (#185) it reads published in October 2013 by the Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC) in London, and RM Verlag in Barcelona, and Editorial RM in Mexico City. On the website of AMC it says Party. Quitonasto Form CHANMAIR MAO TUNGEST (the funniest and most cryptical title ever for a contemporary photobook) by Christina De Middel has been published in March 2014. Party is the English language title on the spine of the book, in gilt debossed patted boards. This cleverly created artist’s book, this cute and well designed – by Jose Luis Lugo (cover design) and Nova Era (additional design) – booklet just has to be on this list.  

‘Party’ refers to Mao’s Little Red Book. That publication is the most reprinted literature after The Bible, but can only be found nowadays in China at some tourist shop. De Middel’s appropriation of the famous booklet (print run 1.715, all numbered), is already a collector’s item. In fact, any publication she compiles turns into a collector’s item. The booklet itself contains reproductions of text pages from The Little Red Book, from which the actual text has been mostly wiped out with correction fluid Tipp-Ex, before reproduction. The remainder of the text fragments reads like: ‘change the enemy’; ‘over and over again in endless spiral’; ‘it is impossible to get work done’; ‘the bandit gang… achieved great discipline’; ‘propaganda is not good’. Party is interleaved with loose-leaf small and square colour photographs in perfect binding to the spine of the book: most are self-made, some have been selected from the Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC). During Paris Photo at Grand Palais, ‘The Party’ was presented as a series of ‘spreads’ in golden frames on the wall, about 40 by 60 cm each. In the frames you look at, on one hand, the censored Tipp-Ext text page, on the other hand, a colour photograph showing e.g. a portrait of a Chinese woman in profile, or a broken Mao figurine, or a table tennis table without a net.

 

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13. It is a typical American colloquial expression: ‘calling it a day’. I Am About to Call it a Day is a book on A-3 format. No. 169 in the row of books published by Patrick Frey in Zürich. This particular publication has been issued in cooperation with Hannibal Publishing, I read on the cover and in the colophon on the inside of the Brown minigolf cardboard cover. You can hardly call it a ‘book’; it has the appearance of an oblong calendar in a carton sleeve. And the title (in a large bold Franklin Gothic Condensed font) printed in black on the front cover slays in your face. Why did you and the Dutch designer Mevis van Deursen choose for this format? This is one of many questions for Bieke Depoorter in the upcoming interview with the Magnum nominee, soon on theloggingroad.

 

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14. I have been debating for quite a while which titles not to include (e.g., FROWST by Joanna Piotrowska, because it has been widely praised in the press; Peter van Agtmael who puts a spell on you in his well written chronicle of America’s wars from 2006-2013, entitled Disco Night Sept. 11). So finally I chose Something like a Nest, self-published by Andy Sewell. Because indeed, it is a ‘visual meditation’, ‘quieten our illusions’, and because the very first (color) and very last (black and white) picture of a kitchen sink with the window in front looks pretty much the same as the one my parents have, and still have, since 1973. In that year I was 13. They bought an old brewery in the province of Brabant. Our neighbors were farmers. I loved to visit them, get fresh milk, smell the cows, climb on a tractor. I like the serenity of the layout, the textual and visual puns in this documentary photobook. The kitchen sink is a returning theme in the book. A sign on the wall reads ‘product waiting area’ showing rows of stainless steel charts on wheels filled with… I don’t know what … chopped carrots? An egg carton filled with six eggs is placed on a plastic table cloth covering a kitchen table. The fabric is decorated with roosters, chickens and youngsters. The vastness of cultivated rural Norfolk, Yorkshire or Kent is so captivating. The cruelty and beauty of killing feasants or a dear are stunning. A rhythm of one picture per right page, landscape mode, and you may find only twelve photo pages on the left. All of them classically framed. The design is by Ivan Markovic. I love the transparant celluloid wrappers, with the title printed on the inside of it, in corn on the cop yellow. It reminds me of Dutch post war company photobooks like vuur aan zee (1958) and De draad van het verhaal (1960).  

I appreciate your comments.   

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Paris Photo 2014 opens its doors in the Thalys on Thursday morning at 9:17h. I happen to sit in front of Mariken Wessels (I recognised her voice after a while and stood up) and got acquainted with Scarlett Hooft-Graafland, who happened to have reserved a train seat next to me. She was reading De Volkskrant of that morning November 13, 2014. I read a headline with her, while the newspaper was lying on her lap: ‘400 photographs and artworks by Man Ray auctioned at Sotheby Paris on behalf of a new generation of heirs. On this particular day, the very first day of Paris Photo, a portrait of the very good looking ‘Lee Miller – with necklace of sea sponges from 1930’ (his muse, lover and friend, par hazard also his co-inventor of the rayogram, and herself an active wartime photojournalist) is being auctioned. The estimated yield is 40.000 to 60.000 euros.

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After a while I asked my neighbour if I might read the full article, and she sifted through the pages in order to hand the spread over to me with a generous smile. That was the moment to introduce us to each other. In the article is mentioned that Man Ray made a pipe with a glass bubble. On the pipe is written: ce que manque a nous tous (what all of us are missing). According to Ray the right answer is: ‘fantasy’. Ray made the pipe in 1927, two years before Magritte‘s Ceci n’est pas une pipe. Ray was one of the first of his contemporaries who worked in series.

 Scarlett Hooft Graaftland used to live right next to Jacqueline Hassink in New York. Something prompted me to ask rather bluntly: “Are you of noble descent?” “Yes, that’s right”, she confirmed. It was her double surname, linked to a moment, a few days ago, when my neighbour lady, associated with nobility herself, during one of our daily routines of walking-the-dog, talked about Scarlett’s work (“…a bright blue painted zebra in the middle of a herd […] somewhere at a remote place on planet Earth…Madagascar…A red iglo…nothing is photo shopped …large formats”). She attended a reading of Scarlett at Insinger de Beaufort and was intrigued by her work, even considered a purchase. I asked Scarlett whether she has issued a book publication. She mentioned Kehrer Verlag, and the title Soft horizons (2011).

Then she described a scenario in which Bolivian women pose in traditional costumes with the typical black bowler hats on their heads, figuring as the centrefold of a crystal white salt mountain on a crystal white salt pan, holding (what looks like) pink cotton candy in hand. Dali-like, surrealistic photoworks Scarlett creates, and in almost every picture you stare at a wide horizon.

 

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Grand Palais

The very first gallery booth I visit at Paris Photo is Stevenson from Cape Town. Works by Pieter Hugo on the wall, his brand new oblong Aperture publication KIN on the worktable. It reads like an album, I am pleasantly surprized. On the very first page Tasmyn Reynolds (it doesn’t say ‘my wife or girlfriend’) poses naked, with wet hair and pregnant with their first child. On another page his parents are portrayed, together in bed, all dressed, the mother with glasses on, the father with coffee cup in hand. After 10 pictures we see Hugo naked, lying down with his new-born daughter on his lap: a squirming little baby on top of his huge tattooed athletic body. While leafing through the pages I see his grand mother, his nanny, his second kid, and his extended family, and then the photographer just walks into the gallery booth. There he is in person: the healthy looking tall blond Viking! I would not have recognised him otherwise. I say: “You must be Pieter Hugo, I just saw your portrait in your new book”. I asked him whether he speaks Dutch. “Ja”…. “My father was a French Huguenot”, he says in Afrikaans. I don’t get it all, but he continued explaining something like his family roots are in Denmark. Than I asked him how this publication came about. “Well, … in fact after the birth of my daughter six years ago. “I’ve just seen the book once…well printed …paper a little thin…”. I ask him what the three capital letters of which the title consists actually means: KIN. “Family in a broader sense… medemens!” [Fellow man], he exclaims. ‘KIN’ refers to ‘KINSHIP’, my partner explains a few days later on the phone. I requested Pieter to write that Dutch word in the copy of his book that I purchased on the spot, paying cash. With ‘medemens’ Paris Photo 2014 in Grand Palais started.

 

A little further, at the Fraenkel Gallery booth, hangs on the main wall facing the public a tableau by Nicholas Nixon, covering the entire wall: ‘40 years Brown sisters’, in 8 x 5 = 40 white frames. Every year, since 1975, Nixon makes a group portrait of the four sisters (one of whom is Nixon’s wife Bebe) consistently in the same setup (Heather, Mimi, Bebe and Laurie), jam-packed in the frame. A canary yellow linen cloth hardbound, published by MOMA, is placed on top of a small table in front of the mural. The latest image in the series is published on October 3rd for the first time in The New York Times. Close by, on a narrow back wall of the booth another striking, but small tableau is resonating the large grid on the main wall: eclipse totale de soleil 30 August 1905. It’s a geometric collage of square contact prints, 6 x 5= 30 vintages glued on carton. At the bottom of the grid the full sun is depicted, on the left before, and on the right after the eclipse.

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Christina de Middel

Her work stands out, even at a giant fair like Paris Photo. ‘The absence of monsters’ is what I read in a monumental piece by Christina de Middel, who is represented by Black Ship gallery from New York. The phrase shows up next to a poster showing Mao wearing an Afro hair wig. Glued onto that poster is a typewriter letter by ‘the assistant of the ministry of Power, Transport and Technology’. You recognize ‘Afronauts’ in parts of the installation.

 

On the inside of the fair booth the series ‘The Party’ (2014) is shown. This work refers to Mao’s Little Red Book. That publication is the most reprinted literature after The Bible, but can only be found nowadays in China at some tourist shop. De Middel’s appropriation of the famous booklet, entitled Quintonasto Form CHANMAIR MAO TUNGEST (2013 – print run 1.750), is already a collector’s item. In fact, any publication she compiles turns into a collector’s item. The booklet itself contains reproductions of text pages from The Little Red Book, from which the actual text has been mostly wiped out with correction fluid Tipp-Ex, before reproduction. The remainder of the text fragments reads like: ‘change the enemy’; ‘over and over again in endless spiral’; ‘it is impossible to get work done’; ‘the bandit gang… achieved great discipline’; ‘propaganda is not good’.

The booklet is interleaved with loose-leaf small and square colour photographs in perfect binding to the spine of the book: most are self-made, some have been selected from the Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC) in London. ‘The Party’ is a series of ‘spreads’ in golden frames on the wall, about 40 by 60 cm each. In the frames you look at, on one hand, the censored Tipp-Ext text page, on the other hand, a colour photograph showing e.g. a portrait of a Chinese woman in profile, or a broken Mao figurine, or a table tennis table without a net.

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De Middel’s most recent series ‘Jan Mayen’, deals with the re-construction of a fake expedition. I don’t think that has ever been done in photography: Re-made and re-vived found fake photography. A crew, mainly people that reacted to a newspaper add, acting as scientists (only the captain and the photographer were real), was trying to discover a new island between Iceland and Greenland, in the early 1900s. The whole thing was a disaster. The boat could not dock, the island was never found. For the sake of honour, the expedition was staged in words (from a logbook) and images. De Middel basically made a visualisation of the fake expedition based on the record of events, collected in the fictional logbook that is in the keeping of AMC.

The manager of AMC happens to be posing in clothes that have been purchased on eBay, mimicking the outdoor fashion of a century ago. A pseudo vintage picture of a flying shark has been Photoshopped. In another image, simulating a hand coloured vintage black and white photograph, blue jelly candy is dispersed in creeks. Next to that a picture of red jelly candy scattered on a gravel beach. Microscopic samples from the AMC are reproduced with an iPhone. Adding to the cosmic elements in the project is an astronomical map from 1900. This specific cartographic representation of the galaxy was the result of one of the most costly astronomical projects ever in Belgium; trying to establish the galactic coordinate system, it turned out that incorrect research findings were provided. Thus, this project is yet another example of scientific failure. Reproductions from herbaria are pasted on the wall. Timothy Prus wearing a bowler hat, his son, and other AMC staff members took part in the imitation of the expedition, sitting all together, with binoculars and oars, in a dugout canoe.

 

The sister of Christina (enthusiastic and knowledgably about the work) shows Polyspam to me, pulling the publication out of her purse. This most recent publication, in an edition of 150, looks like a thick envelope, with a counterfeit airmail stamp in red: ‘thisbookistrue’. The artist’s book consists of envelopes containing, printed on an A-4, original spam mail Christina had received. It’s content inspired her to take pictures. Eight envelopes contain eight colour photographs.

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Open Book

Sebastian Hau and Pierre Hourquet curated the Open Book exhibition, a yearly event during Paris Photo. This is their statement to the public: “The exhibition presents a selection of art books published between the 1960s and today. Since the release of “Twenty-six Gasoline Stations” in 1963 by the American artist Edward Ruscha, the reproduction of photographic images is one of the preferred media for numerous international artists such as Andy Warhol, John Baldessari, Gilbert & George, Hans-Peter Feldmann and many others. This new type of book, whether a multiple object, a limited edition or unlimited publication, directly designed by the authors, has been adopted and taken up since the 1980s by photographers and contemporary artists such as Richard Prince, Christopher Wool, Wolfgang Tillmans, Sophie Calle, Mike Kelley, Gerhard Richter, Christian Marclay or Anselm Kiefer”.

 

A selection of about 75 artists’ books is presented in the ambulatory of Grand Palais. Strangely enough hardly anybody went there, I noticed. The title of the exhibition is ‘In Place’. A few quotes by Ed Ruscha (considered the initiator of low profile and self-published artist’s book for the people) are silkscreened on the wall. Samsung screens display numbered video clips showing hands leafing through several of the books, which are on view in window cases right below the screens, displaying the books with the corresponding numbers. I realized this is a short-lived exhibition, only up for the few days of Paris Photo. The artist’s books are cramped in the showcases. Kippenberger; Kosuth; Anselm Kiefer; Les Krims; Fiona Tan’s booklet vox populi, and, literally, lying on top of that is Dark Shadow by Gilbert & George, published by Art for All. One of my observations was, Hans Eijkelboom and Peter Downsbrough have something in common.

 

Brutus killed Cesar (1976) by John Baldessari is a revelation that stayed with me: an oblong spiral bound booklet, like a stretched postcard, inside of it a repetition of reproductions – or fragments from film stills – of two male portraits (politicians, film actors maybe?) facing each other. And in between them, in the middle of the triptych, a freestanding picture of a potential murder weapon (kitchen knife, a dart, a pipe…) pops up. On the website of the Paris Photo program I read this booklet is a visual pun referring to Alfred Hitchcock’s cynical phrase: “Let’s bring murder back to the family where it belongs”. On the website you may find more in-depth information on the specific publications (book title, place and year of publication, size, number of pages and a short annotation). You don’t find that in the exhibition per se.

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Gary

Before 11.00 A.M. visitors are already forming a long queue in front of the entrance of Jeu de Paume, where a major retrospective of Gary Winogrand is showing his ‘tirages d’epoque’ (French for ‘vintage prints’). Winogrand, being the autodidact he is, continuously growing and influenced by Robert Frank and Walker Evans, photographed the physical aspects of all kinds of parades, cabaret, opera, and most of all, street life in the 1950s and 1960s in New York, Los Angeles, and several cities in Texas. He called it ‘the circus’. ‘Down from The Bronx’ captures his aproach: the photographer eagerly on top of his subject. Gary is drawn to physical action. In the picture entitled ‘Richard Nixon campaign, New York 1960’, people, stacked up in the photographic frame, carry signs with election slogans. ‘NY World’s fair, 1960’ clearly is a good example of how he kept dramatizing body language, facial expressions, and ultimately, the Carnival of Life. The most famous picture fitting in that description is this one: In Central Park a white blond woman with a scarf around her permanent and a tall well-dressed black man both carry dressed chimpanzees into Central Park Zoo. It is the year 1967. All kinds of family photographs are in display cases: Gary as a tough young guy with a tie and a wide greedy mouth, a Leica in front of his chest, and wearing a trench coat. Arms folded, hands behind the head, one leg on a table: All part of Winogrand’s circus. “The photograph is more dramatic than what happened”, he explains during a recorded Question-Answer session with an audience (we don’t get to see the audience). He can’t sit still. He has his arms folded, hands behind his head, two legs on the pedestal, on both sides of the microphone. He left 6.600 rolls of film that he had never reviewed. Or that he edited in haste. Diane Arbus said the following about him: “Gary Winogrand is such an instinctive, nearly primitive ironist, so totally without malice, so unflinching…”

 

Offprint

Following the Seine, towards Saint Germain des Pres, you enter Rue Bonaparte where Offprint is held at the amazing Neo-classicistic Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts. I stumble on Eastern Trouble Press Boston; presenting a self-published booklet by Polish Photographer Karola Mech with two spines (perfect binding), like two booklets facing each other, and a blind print in the very heart of the thing. It will surely be a good weather tomorrow is the title of this reflection by the photographer while on her trip to Japan with her ex-boyfriend. Two perspectives in black and white.

 

I greated Johan Deumens, standing behind a large table in the far back of the fair. And talked to Anne Geene (met her when she was a student at Master Photographic Studies at Leiden University). The English edition of her book Plot 235. was piled high on the table. Visiting her website, which is well designed and a real treat for those people loving biodiversity research, I realize Anne has already published two more editions since the Dutch edition of Plot 235. Johan shows me Arjan de Nooy’s fake feministic magazine from the 1970s Haarscherp containing found amateur photographs of women inspecting their sexual organs. We laugh a bit, timidly at first. I write the title down in my digital notebook, considering the publication for my database in progress on Photobooks of Found Photographs.

 

 

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Polycopies Bar & Books

Polycopies is more like a ‘bar and books’ event situated on a boat docked on the Seine river. This new initiative by Sebastian Hau and Laurent Chardon has its premiere at Paris Photo. You may find here such esteemed publishers as Journal and Nobody, and Akio Nagasawa. More intimate, close to too small for a book fair, is this meeting place on the ship Concorde Atlantique, louder too. More specialised maybe as well: Kaunas Gallery is present with nationally renowned photographers, like Sutkus, and Rakauskas. Names I remember that appeared in Camera International, a high quality heliogravure printed photographic magazine, issued in Paris in the mid 1980s. Odee is there, and Fw is present at Polycopies and at Offprint as well.

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Awards and more

17.15 Friday November 14th, I am receiving an email in which Aperture announces The winner of The Photobook Awards. The First Photobook Award is for Hidden Islam (2013) by Nicolo Degiorgis and with good reason (even without the recommendation and foreword by Martin Parr). Nicolo was signing his books at Dirk Bakker’s booth. Dirk handed me his plain textbook accompanying the already second edition of Hidden Islam. It contains 479 posts on an article entitled: ‘Arles 2014: Nicolo Degiorgis lifts the veil of Italy’s Islamophobia’, written by Sean O’Hagan for The Guardian, and published on July 15th, 2014. People had five days to leave comments. The insides of the fold out text pages show schematic drawings and coordinates, corresponding exactly with the number of pages, themes and locations in the awarded photobook. This is new; this has never been done before, to my knowledge. I buy the textbook in situ for 25,00 euro. He signs it with a pencil: ‘keep looking, Paris 15/11/2014.’

I read a post or two, it goes like this:

2          Italy is a Catholic country.

3:2       What point are you actually making? – Apart from stating the obvious?

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Photobook of The Year Award goes to Imagenary Club (2014) by Olivier Sieber, for what you could almost define as a reference work on the topic (Individual head-and-shoulders portraits, sharp and well lit, and in colour, depict a young generation of punkers appearing in bars and night clubs in major cities like Dusseldorf, Tokyo, New York and London over the years 2005-2012. The busts are juxtaposed to murky black and white pictures of ‘street views’ and urban landscapes. All images are compiled in a roughly bound colossal, but clearly sequenced and well-designed publication. (Did Katja Stuke, Oliver’s partner in life and work have a say in this? I wondered; she is not mentioned in the colophon). The bulky book is the size of an old fashioned telephone directory and is held together with two black rubber bands, which, I know from experience, will disintegrate in the coming years. In the back of the book you may find a state-of-the-art directory compiled of tweets referring to e.g. punk rock bars in Dusseldorf, ‘multiple personality’, ‘transgender’, and ‘skinhead culture’. The evolution from Frau Bohm to Imaginary Club has definitely been awarded! And more surprising, in terms of the definition of a ‘photobook’, is The Catalogue of The Year Award that goes to Christopher Williams’ exhibition catalogue published by MOMA, with the splendid title: The production line of happiness.

 

On Saturday morning, sitting at a café, I am reading in Le Parisien that the building located at 7, Rue des Grands Augustins (VI arrondisement) where Picasso in 1937 painted his mural Guernica possibly will be converted into a hotel with 25 rooms. Charlotte Rampling is a member of the Advisory Committee. And Jean Nouvel has in the periphery of Paris built Le Philarmonie already praised for its phenomenal acoustics. The opening is planned for January 14, 2015. I look at a newspaper picture of a wide wavy auditorium, which looks far from finished.

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Sunday at noon I take the elevators to the sixth floor of Centre Pompidou to visit the Marcel Duchamp retrospective. I am not the only one. L.H.O.O.Q. dating from 1919 is the very first icon you encounter after entering the exhibition. Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee has the size and layout of a 19th century postcard or carte de visite, those sturdy carton ones. The surprise in making this association lifts my spirit. Tzara just came from Switzerland that year, I read in a caption. In a window case I try to decipher some autobiographic notes by Duchamp scribbled on pieces of paper torn from a notepad: “lhooq elle a chaud au cul comme des ciseaux ouvertes”. On Wikipedia I read that it is a pun: the letters of the title when pronounced in French sound like ‘elle a chaud au cul’ (‘she’s got a hot arse’). I didn’t know that.

Further on in the exhibition I discover a second version of L.H.O.O.Q dating from 1955, reproduced on, what looks to me like, a tea towel: l’Envers de la peinture. What I discovered too is that Duchamp aspires ‘non retinal’ painting; making a painting of the idea. Duchamp and his contemporary critics talked about ‘extra retinal radiations’, and ‘the electric halo’, and about ‘the question of fluids’. Depicting the ‘astral body’ of Paul Nadar or a nude from 1910 is very similar to the way Odillon Redon did. Nowadays this ‘astral body’ could be considered the energetic body, also know as the etheric body: the first layer around the physical body. I really feel exited about this discovery! Something he also tried to realize through ‘anaemic cinema’ in 1929. Marcel Duchamp painted his brothers in muted colours while playing chess at gaslight. The work is considered a rebellious act against the violent colours of fauvism. His brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon was a sculptor. Duchamp liked Cranach, his elongated nudes and the colour of flesh.

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Back to Grand Palais one more time on Saturday afternoon. By foot, the same way back. Once more, there were queues in front of Jeu de Paume, and Grand Palais. The first photograph I encountered in a crowded booth, which was substantially larger then most of the others I visited, is a miniature portrait of Margaret Bourke-White while she is taking pictures in the early 1930s with a large wooden view camera (still standard in those days) from the rooftop of the Chrysler building in New York: the selling price is 34.000 euro’s at Daniel Blau Gallery. Just before leaving the booth, I see a portrait of an elderly woman, wearing glasses, reminding me of a similar one by Alexandr Rodchenko. Apparently, Bourke-White made a portrait of Stalin’s mother in 1931. A kind of Quaker portrait and on offer for 7.000 euro’s.

 

After pitching my book proposal (An Anthology: Photobooks of Found Photographs) to some publishers/editors of content, among the crowds of people, I went out to get some fresh air, and walked back to Rue Bonaparte, to Offprint, a ‘disarming’ art-publishing fair that stretches from photography to experimental music. Yannick Bouillis, the creative mind behind it all and director of Offprint was engaged in a talk (to me he represents the philosopher in the world of photography), standing outside in front of the entrance to the fair, smoking a cigarette. Recently he moved with his family from Amsterdam to Paris. He looked happy, and Parisian.

 

From a table at Offprint fair I could, just like that, pick up from a small pile artist’s books by Christian Boltanksi. I was thrilled. Kadish, Les Suisses Morts, Scratch (still sealed), and in particular Inventaire des Objets Ayant Appartenu A Une Femme de Bois-Colombe. I knew the artist’s book, which is also a catalogue, existed, but never had a chance to leaf through it. And after a short introduction Laurence Dumaine Calle from Editions 591 – the CB-publications were on her table – handed to me a publication written by Bob Calle: Christian Boltanski artist’s Books (2008, still sealed). After reading carefully her business card I wondered: Is the author her husband? And are they, Bob and Laurence, somehow related to Sophie Calle?

 On the way back, arriving at Central Station Amsterdam, I stumble on Bas Vroege collecting his large duffel bag, and his partner Hripsime Visser. In the drizzle rain he offers me a present: an oversized photobook in a  cotton bag, he zips out of his luggage: Maydan – Hundred Portraits by Emeric Lhuisset on ‘the face of the revolution in February 2014’, in the centre of Kiev. A potential award winning publication. Thank you Bas.

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Editing room where Valerio Spada worked on video files and stills of police operations

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Gomorrah Girl prints

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Gomorrah Girl first edition

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Gomorrah Girl xerox copies on a wall

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Signed copies from Gomorrah Girl second edition

Mirelle Thijsen (MT):

Twin Palms Publishers just released the third edition, which is a first American edition, of your well-received book Gomorrah Girl, and is releasing shortly your next publication entitled: I am Nothing.  

Both publications are dealing with the Mafia in southern Italy, both photobooks are telling a grim story on a father-daughter’s relationship, one in Naples (Gommorah Girl), the other in Sicily (I Am Nothing). Both titles are remarkable for their outstanding graphic design and bookmaking.   

How did you get involved; what is your relationship to the Mafia, let’s start with the Camorra, the ruling organization in the region of Naples?

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Valerio Spada (VS):

Fortunately I don’t have any relationship whatsoever with the Camorra. I was living in Paris for some years and in that period travelled frequently to Naples; during one of my earliest trips I met Giovanni Durante, the father of Annalisa, who has been killed in a war between Camorra clans in Forcella, and since then I’ve started to change my approach to, probably, my entire life. It was very painful to loose my parents when I was young, but nothing compares to surviving your own daughter… I guess.

 

These details from his story, sections from an interview he allowed me to record, gave me goose bumps. He describes details of the murder; how she died, the location of the bullet impact in her skull. After talking with forensic police I have collected even more details on the murder, like the lock of her hair that was broken off and fell on the street in blood, and many other things impossible to mention here. I got obsessed with the idea how is it possible in today’s world to die in this way, at the age of 14, in Naples. It’s the evidence of absence of the State. And since then nothing has changed really. And it’s sad.

 MT:

WHEN, WHY and HOW did you start to document the mafia?

 

VS:

I started in 2008. I think what intrigues me, are places where it is not safe to live, dangerous neighbourhoods and what life is like in those areas. I was trying to document the beauty of it, and I see it everywhere. The WHY, I think, is connected to the brutal way in which I’ve lost my mother and a few years later my father. Pain and suffering have always been in my life since I was 16. I assume it is a way for me to go back there, to the moment I lost my adolescence, trying to document my lost adolescence through the traumatic lives of others, in order not to loose anything of it once again.

 MT:

 How is it possible that a teenager (Salvatore Giuliano) becomes a Camorra boss at 19 years old?

 

VS:

In Naples it is possible, and not only there. In Naples you have young drug dealers of 10 years old. They start to reason and act like a drug dealer. Well, a few of them. At 13 you manage money, a stipend in fact, that your father collects on an average monthly basis (which is equal to a day fee of a drug dealer), and you do it during the weekend. At 17 you think bigger. And so on. It goes fast there. Any 14 years old girl in Naples is as smart in life as any 40-year-old experienced woman in Milan. They are even faster, better.

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MT:

Who was Annalisa Durante (daughter of Giovanni Durante)? What kind of girl was she? I understand that she kept a diary.

VS:

She was a regular girl. Beautiful. Dreaming of running away from Naples because she considered it dangerous to live there. Rome, for them, is like, for most of us, taking a trip to the moon. And in fact the city of Rome is only one-and-a-half hours from Naples.

 

MT:

On March 27, 2004, more than a decade ago, Salvatore Giuliano killed Annalisa Durante, just after a talk she had with her friends and the young Camorra boss, in front of her father’s store. It was a shot from the second revolver that killed Annalisa. Salvatore still has to serve 14 years in prison, charged for homicide. What happened?

 

VS:

In that year, 2004, 3 women were murdered. It was a one and only event in Naples’ criminal history probably, in recent history for sure. What I often do, is inform myself thoroughly about the topic before going to a location. I spend time in libraries, speak with journalists, with police officers, I read books, literature of all kind of events, and then I go there.

What happened is the following: Two murderers on a motorcycle and with uncovered faces pop out of a side street and open fire. Their aim is to kill Guiliano, who hides behind the car and starts to shoot back at them. The two friends of Annalisa find a getaway on the right side fleeing in a small street, while Annalisa runs in the opposite direction: where the killers are driving away. One of the three bullets fired by Giuliano hits Annalisa in the head, she died after 48 hours.

MT: 

The title ‘Gomorrah Girl’ refers to a colloquial expression?

 

VS:

It refers to the story in the Bible of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’; it refers to a book written by my dear friend Roberto Saviano who lived in Naples as intensively as I did. He was documenting in writings what I’ve tried to document in images. And it’s about a girl. It’s about every girl too.

MT:

Why is adolescence of young women ‘almost denied’ in this crime-ridden area? It seems such a primitive, patriarchal society.

VS:

As I was mentioning earlier, they just grow up faster than anywhere else. The area is dangerous; crime is everywhere. Surveys show a high percentage of teenage moms in Naples, the unemployment rate is very high. Actually there’s nothing ‘primitive’ about daily life there; it’s just an abandoned area due to the total absence of the government and the state.

GomorrahGirl RIL jpeg 

MT:

The publication Gommorah Girl is a book within the book: a police report in a cahier. On one of the first pages, the police report is showing the ‘proiettile’ from two angles. What are we looking at? Further on, the caption ‘Ril.12’ is referring to a projectile taken from Annalisa’s body, during autopsy on March 29, 2004, two days after she was killed. How did you get access to this police report and permission to publish?

VS:

My original intent was to present documentary evidence of Annalisa’s murder. That was not possible; you need to be a police officer to do that. So the local police gave me permission to photograph notebooks, reports and photographs containing all the evidence they collected. They allowed me to reproduce their pictures and donated to me some prints of the criminal investigations. I’ve spent a lot of time studying that material; it was a tremendous experience.

 

These police officers are obviously passionate about photography. For instance, the actual seize picture of weapons is made thanks to using a Manfrotto tripod they’ve borrowed me that day. When you look at the two pictures adjacent on a page in the police report [Ril. 1-2] what it shows is a ballistic match to prove that a single bullet at the crime scene has been fired from the murderer’s gun. The work of forensic police at a crime scene is crucial to get justice. It’s so under-evaluated in Italy. We have extensive juridical trails that failed to jail a killer because the first hours after a murder were lost; evidence was collected poorly or important traces were simply left behind. Naples’ forensic police is amongst the best there is in Italy and they work with such a limited budget compared to the amount of money criminals have, that it might even be considered an unfair battle.

 

MT:

The report is interleaved with small size documentary photographs in colour, pictures you took, from e.g. ‘La Scuola’, a former Kindergarten, and now an extremely dangerous place where drug addicts get together. How did you get in? How does this scene relate to the protagonist Annalisa?

GomorrahGirl 6 jpeg

VS:

I can talk forever about the documentaries I made in Naples. I find correlations everywhere that other people might not see at first sight, and sometimes I am not happy to reveal them, maybe they are just in my head. That is a problematic I don’t want to solve; I like things to be untold, I like to credit the viewer’s intelligence. We, documentary photographers, have to leave a space, a gap, between what we document and what a viewer or reader is able to perceive. That gap is vital.

To answer your question: that picture in particular, in my opinion, is the reason why Annalisa was killed. The girl I photographed at La Scuola is shooting a dose of Kobret ( a low-grade form of heroine) in a vein in her arm, she paid 13 euros for the shot. The cheapest price in Europe you pay for that type of dope. That is Camorra’s core business. In Forcella, where Annalisa died, two family clans are in war to define superior strength and to control the area for drug dealing and crime related business. So, according to me, that is the connection between the two. Everytime I see that picture of the girl shooting a dose in her vein, I can’t help thinking that Annalisa died for that same reason.

 MT:

Please tell me about La Vela Rossa (The Red Sail) that looks like a run down apartment building in Naples. Francesca, and her sister (a single mother), and her mother live there. They, and the building itself, seem to be your protagonists?

GomorrahGirl 7 jpeg

VS:

I don’t think there is a protagonist in this book. And if there is one, it is the one you don’t see, and you never get to see there, and that protagonist is the Italian state; how our government is seriously ignoring these problems. As I explained, I tend to approach a new story by thoroughly studying the subject matter. Then I get lost in the subject matter, on location. For months, even years. Suddenly I find myself, and I publish a book. I think the pattern is repeating itself. Certainly at the start of something new. I investigate a lot, conduct interviews, talk to prosecutors, to police officers, and journalists. And it all becomes pretty clear in my mind. Then I go to the area. And everything changes. I get lost. I think I am losing my time. I think I am a loser. I think it is stupid to risk my life… And for what reason? Then photography takes over. And everything changes again.

 

Francesca’s family was really sweet and welcoming. They used to live in Vomero, a wealthier area in Naples, later her parents got divorced and her mother had no money. So they moved to the apartment complex La Vela Rossa in order to avoid paying any rent. Francesca used to go out and work as a waitress in a pizzeria, one-hour drive away from Le Vele and she returned back “home” at 2AM. There are no lights on the run down stairs; she climbs ten/eleven floors up in total darkness, and goes to bed, bringing some money home. How many people do you know doing this?

 MT:

Suddenly a picture from the female prison in Pozzuoli shows up. Why? Later in your publication a woman, detained in the prison, describes the conditions inside.

GomorrahGirl jpeg prison

VS:

It’s about choices. What I was trying to document was what Annalisa could have become, after growing up. These kids are daily forced to choose between the good and the bad. The bad is there, with one-day cash money that their father, in case he is employed, has raised in three months time. The good is hard to find. It’s probably inside of you, …I guess.

Civilization of a country is measured by the way they treat their citizens in jail, someone once said.

 

Pozzuoli is a female prison. A dear friend in police work suggested to go there and take pictures inside on the living conditions of women inmates. Another policeman, while laughing, was saying, “They are going to rape you”. Anyway, it was a big experience. I remember being accompanied by psychologists guiding me in, and being envious ‘cause I carried all my cameras with me and they were employed for 12 years, and were never allowed to take a picture. I had permission from the Ministero dell’Interno [Ministery of Internal Affairs], it took a long time, months to receive it, but the permit finally arrived, and I’ve spent three days with 19 selected jail inmates. It’s a very difficult situation because very often the guards watching over the female inmates are themselves women that have lost their kids in drug issues. So they are very tough with women in jail, often committed for drug dealing related crimes. 

GomorrahGirl  girls 1

MT:

You show other women in the book, young girls in fact: a fighter called Marcianise; an anonymous woman under house arrest and an Italian boxing champion named Viviana, as well as a 13 year old girl on her night out. To what extent do these girls relate to Annalisa?

GomorrahGirl 10 girl

VS:

Again, everything I notice in Naples is related to Annalisa. The fact that her father is depicted in the first picture of the book, and carrying the only image of Annalisa on his necklace, doesn’t make that picture more related to Annalisa then the fighter in Marcianise. Viviana, the boxer, is a girl that works out 3 to 6 hours per day during championships and tournaments; it’s her way to counteract to the lack of government assistance or to the kind of life she is forced to live in. Viviana could have been Annalisa, in my eyes. Any of the girls in jail could have been Annalisa, if only Annalisa had been offered the time to make the wrong choices, and she wouldn’t probably anyway. After I had talked to Annalisa’s father, I started to see Annalisa everywhere and anywhere.

MT:

And then there is Sabrina, a ‘Neo-melodic’ singer. What does that term mean? And HOW does Comorra exploit this obscure market? I read that songwriters have been persecuted for paedophilic contents of their lyrics?

GomorrahGirl 3

GomorrahGirl melo

VS:

That subject matter could have been a book in itself. Neo-melodic singers start their career very early, around 7 or 8 years old, and sometimes you have kids at 13, their fame already descending, and getting depressed. They sing at ceremonies, for about 15 minutes, several sessions per day during weekends, get paid cash and move on to the next one. They make quite some money considering their age. In a few cases Camorra abuses these singers to send specific messages incorporated in the lyrics at the end of a performance, in order to ease a conflict between two different clans in Naples.

MT:

Then we end up in the forensic laboratory of the ‘Polizia Scientifica’ [Forensic Police] showing a pile of boxes containing documents and weapons from the Casalesi’s family in Aversa. Who are these people?

 

VS:

Well, the Casalesi family is a smarter clan than the ones that use drug dealing as a main income. They are almost “Sicilians” in my eyes, in the way they run their business. Keeping it low profile and making huge money in construction projects. Although, the war they’ve started caused several executions in Naples. If you take a look at Walter Schiavone’s villa designed in the grandiose Scarface style, after the mobster’s mansion in the 1983 film Scarface, you understand the incredible loop. American movies were inspired by the Godfather’s Sicilian mafia life style, than Neapolitan mafia was inspired by American movies, like Scarface, to create their own image in the territory of Naples. In addition, there are movies about that too.

GomorrahGirl  guy

MT:

Twin Palms Publishers released shortly a different edition of Gomorrah Girl, after two print runs of this cahier. A case bound edition containing 78 photographs will come out. Why yet another edition, and what is the difference with the first publication?

GomorrahGirl 4 jpeg

cover Gomorrah Girl third edition Twin Palm Publishers 2014

VS:

I consider Twin Palms Publishers to be the best publishing house out there. I like all of it: their profile, their catalogue, their artists, the fact that they publish very, very, few books per calendar year, and for many other reasons. They wanted to republish Gomorrah Girl, in order to introduce my work to the US market, that was before my work in Sicily for the book project I Am Nothing, because the publication was sold out really fast and very few copies of the second edition were left. But still, we are talking about 500 copies of the first edition and 750 of the second edition. The third edition has the largest print run. I think it was a bright idea to have Gomorrah Girl out there NOT just for collectors, prices on the self-published first edition were getting so high, and in this way granting a wider audience to have the book largely available in the future.

 

MT:

Is Twin Palms Publishers making a facsimile of Gommorah Girl?

 

VS:

Twin Palms releases the first American edition of Gomorrah Girl. It’s not a facsimile. It is definitely a first American edition, and it’s the third edition of this book after two self-published editions.

The main differences in design and realisation compared to the earlier editions are:

a case bound hardcover; wonderfully designed by Jack Woody that protects the fragility of the book. What Jack Woody did to the cover design is poetic and cared for without changing the book at all. In the heart of the book, the centrefold poster in the second edition had a letter sent from female prison inmates describing the conditions inside the jail, very cruel and touching. In the third edition, Twin Palms has had that letter translated from Italian to English and over imposed the text on the photograph in order to better divulge the power of the letter itself. So there is no longer the foldable poster I’ve designed for the second edition featured in The Photobook A History Volume III (2014) by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The cover photograph is different too.

IAMCOVEROK

cover I Am Nothing first edition

MT:

Let’s move on to your recent publication I Am Nothing. There is an artist’s edition of 500 copies, signed and numbered. A trade edition of 1000 copies is available, again by Twin Palm Publishers. To what extent do both publications relate to each other?

 

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Santa Fe, working with Jack Woody on book layout of I Am Nothing

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Santa Fe, working with Jack Woody on the book layout I Am Nothing

VS:

Twin Palms Publishers edition is a trade edition, they will distribute the photobook to bookstores worldwide; in this way I do not have to deal myself directly with bookstores, which took a lot of time for previous editions. It may seem like a minor thing, but it is not, when you want to create a new body of work. I had a really bad experience with an bookstore in Milan that never paid the original low retail price for several copies of my first edition, while reselling my book for several hundreds euros a piece to their clients. Honestly, I am happy I don’t have to deal with this now. Fortunately, this only happened in Italy; there are plenty of fantastic bookstores worldwide. Twin Palms Publishers is used to dealing with bookstores and have a solid network. If you are self-publishing, there is only one thing you can trust and it’s your website and people that look out for you there.

Jack Woody has designed an additional dust jacket for the Twin Palms trade edition of I Am Nothing. I liked the idea to keep a small special edition of 500 copies as a first edition to sell directly from my website, signed and numbered, for collectors only, and hopefully for the people that showed all that appreciation for the first edition of Gomorrah Girl. Probably the types of buyers are very different, or maybe not, but it’s a good compromise to keep the book quality very high when in print and also to be sure that the book is and will be still available in the Twin Palms Publishers catalogue in case of possible future editions.

 MT:

And, in terms of content, to what extent do both publications Gommorah Girl and I Am Nothing relate to each other?

VS_Sicily-12

VS_Sicily-14

VS:

This is a good question, because I presume every photographer ending up closing a chapter of years of work resulting in a book might have the same inner question. Which is: Why am I doing this? Why am I covering this? Will I always work on mafia and adolescence? I tell you that, for sure both books are chapters to me of a long-term project on Italy. I never get tired of portraying Italy. Gomorrah Girl is about the Campania region and specifically the area of Naples, while I am Nothing is about Sicily and whoever wants to rule that part of the country, and the latter is about never losing the focus on who is living there.

001-152-33

Both projects are very much intertwined. Again we are dealing with an impossible or broken father-daughter relationship. Not that I go looking for that, but it happens to be there while documenting the stories and the areas. They have many things in common; there is a correlation between the two works, but this does not exclude something completely different and lighter in the future. Right now it is hard for me to move away from these stories; I rather do a ‘Gomorrah Girl 2’, if you allow me using such a strange expression, than moving elsewhere. This has nothing to do with the great feedback the book received, or about staying in a comfort zone (not that it is at all comfortable working in those areas) but just because Naples is endless. And so is Italy.

001-152-74

MT:

I am Nothing is a book about Sicily, about impeded communication and about a hopeless relationship between a father, Matteo Messina Denaro – a most wanted criminal and fugitive – and his daughter, who he’s never met. Please tell me about the small slips of paper, so-called pizzini, mafia bosses use for high-level communication, and what it involves to disappear from Sicilian mafia circles.

 

 

 

 

VS_Sicily-13

 

VS_Sicily-19

 

 

I am Nothing 1

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.04.50 AM

VS:

Matteo Messina Denaro has been a fugitive from justice since 21 years. I am not sure whether he is in Sicily right now or not. He might be there while I am talking to you. He has been in Tunis a lot because he can take night trips with fishers’ boats in Mazara del Vallo and still be close to Sicily controlling everything that happens there.

VS_Sicily-03

The “pizzini” is how they communicate nowadays and have been communicating for the last 43 years. Bernardo Provenzano, a previous Mafia boss and Don of the Dons, used this technique, with a typewriter machine, which I had the chance to photograph. He sent of messages including the most violent death orders in Sicily and directed the money traffic in his territory. “Pizzini” are A4 paper size coded messages, folded multiple times and wrapped in transparent tape with a number on it. They usually had 160 people to give orders and to write to. So on the “pizzini” you have the number, which indicates the final recipient. That message will be passed from one person to another: 7 different people in total, before it reaches the order’s recipient. Only for urgent matters Matteo Messina Denaro is using Skype, to talk with his sister Patrizia, arrested last December.

VS_Sicily-04

objects in a Bible which belonged to Provenzano

MT:

You have documented Matteo M. Denaro’s possessions. How did you get to him, and what possessions did you record?

001-152-40

VS:

I’ve documented a lot of Bernardo Provenzano possessions. I was interested in what you carry with you when you decide to disappear; he had lists of things when he was moving from one place to another. Finally when he was caught, after 43 years on the run, during a massive police operation, they were able to list and collect all his personal objects and I had the chance to record them. Nobody ever had access to these objects before, not even a journalist who specialized in the Mafia and who wrote two books on this boss. When he saw these objects, he was there when I was photographing them, he was really astonished. On the other hand, regarding Matteo Messina Denaro, I’ve made a graphological analysis of the few traces, in terms of letters and documents, he left behind. He is smarter. You don’t really get to Matteo Messina Denaro.

 

 

In his chapter ‘Cannibalizing Photography’, published in the recently released third volume of The Photobook: A History, Gerry Badger presents a wide-ranging selection of photobooks by artists and author-photographers who ‘feed of the art of the past’. I like the term ‘cannibalizing’ much better, being less cryptic, than the sophisticated art-historical term ‘appropriating’. ‘Cannibalizing’ goes well with the notion ‘vernacular photography’ which is in many such cases the source material for photobooks on found photographs, and covers the quest and selection procedures involved in ruminating swarms of images from archives, collections, repositories and the Internet. In a nutshell, the chapter is displaying, according to Badger: ‘a photobook genre that is enjoying an increasing vogue in the twenty-first century in which visual imagery of all kind is pillaged, reworked refabricated by photographic artists’. Key examples dating from 1943 until 2012 show different approaches: from parody to paraphrase, from intervention and surrogate to storyline. State-of-the-art example is War Primer 2 by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.

In this update on my FilemakerPro database in progress (containing as of today 141 titles)  ‘An Anthology: Photobooks on Found Photographs’, I selected for discussion on this post 4 book titles from this chapter, and 5 more. I will start with the latter. Each book, categorized and carrying a unique database number, is represented by an image of the front cover and/or a spread, as well as a short annotation or ‘found text’, signifying the content of the photobook. Selected quotes are in color.

In the database booktechnical information and photohistorical references are sorted in fields. Different categories are created, related to strategies of editing and selecting. Indexes are made. A typology of photobooks on found photographs is the result. Subcategories indicate e.g. the different genres of photography represented in these books, from ideological war photography to encyclopaedic imagery. The origin of the material retrieved is noted, be it a menu card in a Chinese restaurant or reproductions out of books on Adolf Hitler from a private collector, a former pathologist.

What all books selected for this anthology have in common is that they are ‘organized with humor and intelligence’. These publications are the result of attempts to deal with new artists’ strategies towards the narrative and authorship. And in doing so, the documentators, the editors, are working towards shifting intersections between art-as-photography, advertising, the private versus the public and politics. These photographers-as-editors take into account the vast quantity of images that western culture produces, be it corporate reports, family albums from World War II, or stills from old home movies. In many cases this kind of photobook is compiled from images that are categorized, and sorted over time within the personal archive of the documentator.


 

 

RE-made, RE-worked, RE-vived found photographs

 

fractures cover Ofer Wolberger

Wolbergers-fractures photo page

[043.IV]

Fractures is a sophisticated cultbook, on black matt paper and obscure in appearance. The artists’ book, pocket size, is number 10 of a series called ’12 books’ by Ofer Wolferberger, founder of Horses Think Press. Wolberger reworked found medical photography, instructional material, showing HOW TO apply plaster in numbered figures and different body positions. The faces of models, all male – dressed in pyjama’s or trench coats, or half naked – are erased, which adds to the absurdity of what is depicted. Grainy pictures, show installations with tables, chairs and broom sticks, which makes the scenes even more surrealistic in nature. Large and small body parts are covered with plaster. Sober white typography on a black fond, for the title, figures and a listing of ‘materials, symptoms and signs’ in the back of the booklet.

 

COLLECTIONS of found (digital) photography/film and SELECTIONS of vernacular (digital) photography/film

ping-pong cover

[039.III]

This cute and tight booklet is not to be confused with Ping Pong Conversations by Francesco Zanot, which is a text manual on Soth’s oeuvre, based on conversations with the photographer. It came out more or less at the same time as Ping Pong which is a brilliant selection of vernacular photography on table tennis, selected by Alec Soth. Mostly covering ping pong as a recreational sport at home in sport halls, or in basements, some local competitions, candy product or advertising photography included. Both the photographs and the words contain a punch. With revealing short nostalgic reflections on the game by Dyer and Iyer in different colors typeface and different font size. Exquisite printing and interleaved with glossy varnished pages. A playful lay-out it is, in primary colors red, yellow, blue and green.

pingpong A Soth spread

 

A.S.: Ha. Yes, for the last few years, I’ve been the pre-eminent collector of Ping-Pong pictures on eBay. But the publication of the book marks the end, hopefully, of that obsession. God knows I have enough pictures. The book shows only a fraction of my collection. I love the pictures and loved acquiring them, but that alone wasn’t enough to make a book. I needed to energize it somehow … I needed players! A while I ago I learned that the great British author, Geoff Dyer, was not only an expert on photography but was also a big fan of table tennis. So I asked Geoff to write something. In his first draft, he mentioned an ongoing competition with his fellow writer Pico Iyer. With that, I realized I had structure for the book: two writers having a dialog about the game they love. From: Will Shortz, ‘Two table tennis obsessions go back and forth’, The New York Times (6th Floor blog) published September 20, 2013. Consulted on April 10, 2014.

 

 

RE-made, RE-worked, RE-vived found photographs

180 graden spread

[067.IV.C]

Reproduced, Re-worked and altered content of the ‘dictionnaire encyclopédique pour tous’ Petit Larousse en couleurs, Paris 1973) by Laurence Aegerter. 180 degrees is Including contemporary snapshots, documentary photographs, urban landscapes integrated in Larouse lay-out. The pictures are taken in a 180 degree turn from the actual described object. Contributions from different photographers are included. Reproduction starts at page 993.

 

 

censorship-daily---jan-dirk-van-der-burg[1]

iran-censorshop-jan-dirk-van-der-burg

[075.IV]

My friend Thomas Erdbrink lives in Iran and subscribes to the ‘Islamic’ edition of NRC Handelsblad. When the sealed newspaper lands on his doormat in Tehran, its contents have already been secretly checked by the Iranian authorities. They do so seeking images that are unsuitable for the eyes of inhabitants of the Islamic Republic. Forbidden items used to be carefully suppressed using scissors, a ruler and blue stickers. Photos would be left intact insofar as possible, only covering the parts that were absolutely necessary. Each civil servant would go to work with scissors and stickers in their own way. The quantity of bare leg that could be shown seemed to vary for no apparent reason, and sometimes the odd picture of genitals would slip through unnoticed. A year ago, the blue stickers stopped appearing. For reasons unknown, the newspaper is no longer censored in this way. And so, as a mark of respect, I now present the best examples of old-fashioned censorship, handcrafted by Iranian civil servants – Jan Dirk van der Burg. From: [MOTTO], ‘Censorship Daily Netherlands Iran. Jan Dirk van der Berg’, posted 24 November 2012. Consulted on March 13, 2013. Read more

 

TYPOLOGIES, indexes, encyclopaedic GRIDS

[029.VI]

“Nulla da Dire, or nothing to say, consists of ten annual volumes of daily collected photographs derived from Italian newspapers ” La Republica” and “La Corriera della Sera”. Each volume represents a selection of more than 300 photographs of one year, based on two criteria: non-sensational and non-sport. It appeared that very few women passed the selection. The artist decided to keep the series male images and collect the female images for one volume on females, after ten years of collecting”. From: Johan Deumens, Catalogue of Artists’ books Johan Deumens Gallery, Amsterdam, Update February 2013.

nulla da dire cover paus

nulla da dire women

Nulla da Dire is an artists’ book on found photography par excellence. Yellow flyleafs, roughly cut outs of newspaper photographs on a white page. An encylcopaedic survey of gesticulating Italian and international politicians. Besides Gadhaffi, George Bush senior you may find hardly any international politicians in Volume I. In Volume VI newspaper clips show gesticulation of political men (Giscard d’Estain, Yasser Arafat, Sadam Housein, Umberto Ossi, Bill Clinton, Boris Jeltsin) .In Volume VII appears Fidel Castro, Pope Johannes Paulus, George W. Bush, Boris Jeltsin, a black African leader. The number of pictures per volume is: 284. Except for Volume XI a unique volume on women politicians (1988-2000). Volume XI contains newspaper clips showing gesticulation with hands of political power women (Princes Diana, Chicolina, Margaret Tatcher, Hillary Clinton, Bhuto). One Xerox per page (on the right). Some press photos of political heads are detached. This is the final volume of the series Nulla da Dire, and the only one devoted to women. Read more


And here a selection of 4 photobooks represented in both The Photobook: A History Volume III (2014) and in the database in progress An Anthology: Photobooks on Found Photographs. 

COLLECTIONS of found (digital) photography/film and SELECTIONS of vernacular (digital) photography/film   

SSavages frnt036

SSavages bck037

[117.III]

Leafing through Grégoire Pujade-Lauraine’s The Significant Savages is like looking through a visual telephone book: the book is composed entirely of abstract information, printed on thin paper, about people the reader does not know. The images here all culled from social networking sites, describe the sites’ users not through their actual physicality (there are no standard head shots) but rather through the images – of pop idols, sports heroes, muscle cars, sunsets, pets – they have chosen to stand in for themselves. The Significant Savages consists of four chapters, plus an epilogue, and has been organized with humor and intelligence. The book is arranged by color – think of a Pantone fan or Peter Fischli & David Weiss’s Visible World (Sichtbare Welt) by gradient visual jokes and mini-narratives. To homogenize and further abstract the appropriated images, Pujade-Lauraine output them in bitmap form, with visible pixels, surrounding them with thin white borders. There is no text, save a declaration of intent printed on the bellyband and a colophon, lending The Significant Savages a clear appearance like that of an artist’s book. From: Sebastian Arthur Hau, ‘The Significant Savages’, posted November 25, 2011, consulted on January 12, 2012.


RE-made, RE-worked, RE-vived found photographs

the third person archive cover front

the third person archive spread

 [021.IV]

The ‘Third Person’ archive begins in the mid-seventies with a probing of these new allegiances – in an encounter with Surrealism. (The ‘Third Person’ archive is a collection of images which were in circulation in the 1920’s and 30’s, at the time of surrealism). Stezaker has described this archive as an opportunity for “time travel”. Predominantly a collection of incidental figures from topographical photographs, mostly overlooked (even by the original photographer), their isolation is a strange act of retrieval. “I am aware that the people in these pictures have long since been dust in these pre-tarmaced streets”*… “It is like an act of posthumous voyeurism”, tracing their forgotten journeys in the urban labyrinth. From: Anonymous, ‘pressrelease. John Stezaker. The Third person Archive’, The Approach, 11th November – 19th December 2004,  Read more

TYPOLOGIES, indexes, encyclopaedic GRIDS

kim jong il cover

Kim Jong II foto

[041.VI]

‘Kim Jong Il looking at things’ is the eponymous title of a photoblog that took the Internet by storm. Created by João Rocha, an art director at an advertising firm in Lisbon, the blog is a collection of photographs which depict the ‘Dear Leader’ of North Korea apparently engaged in the act of looking. Since its creation in October 2010, every few days Rocha posts a photograph appropriated from the Korean Central News Agency. These photographs consistently focus on Kim Jong Il who stands in the centre of the image as his loyal countrymen and women obligingly introduce him to a person of interest, a product, a machine, a new invention, an animal, a food item, a vegetable or indeed anything else that can be looked at. From: Marco Bohr, ‘Introduction’, Kim Jong Il Looking at Things, Paris 2013.

 

RE-made, RE-worked, RE-vived found photographs

mrs merryman front009

merryman spread

[033.IV]

Anne Sophie Merryman’s book Mrs. Merryman’s Collection purports to be a collection of postcards inherited from her grandmother, who passed away before she was born and shares her name, but all is not as it seems. Collected from the late-30s until the 80s, the postcards were never sent or received by Merryman’s grandmother, but collected over the years for their striking imagery. Bearing stamps and postmarks from Spain, France and Africa, the postcards come from all over the world. Each postcard is shown full-size with the front on one page and the back presented on the reverse page. This simple design replicates the act of paging through a pile of postcards, but also allows you to read the messages and savour the physicality of each postcard. Although not all have messages, when they do, the correspondences are usually cryptic or cursory and reveal little about the images. Written in French, Spanish or English, the flowing script is often hard to read or indecipherable. […] The pictures themselves are incredibly strange and don’t resemble any postcards you’re likely to encounter in even the most well-hidden or remote flea market or antique shop. After all, who makes a postcard of someone delicately laying out a piece of paper, a stuffed monkey head, a hand gently touching a mirror, or a ventriloquist dummy? Small, precious and unnerving, they more often resemble the poetic work of Masao Yamamoto than the kinds of vernacular postcards that shuttled back and forth across the globe in the mid-20th century. Unlike postcards you might find, the images and their subject in the book are rarely identified. Rather than offering exotic or prosaic views of distant lands, the images are a series of surreal puzzles and non-sequiturs.[…] Who are Anne Sophie Merryman and her grandmother? Are these real postcards? Where did she get them? Do the two women even exist? Or is it all the creation of another artist – a matryoshka doll of artistic conceits, layered and perplexing to untangle? Merryman exploits our desire to believe these images and her story to hook us, to convince us that each side of the postcard have always been joined and are not a transmutation, a collaborative half-truth of the past and present.’ From: Adam Bell, ‘bookreview Mrs. Merryman’s Collection’, posted August 14, 2012. Consulted on January 30, 2013.