A strange juxtaposition of beauty and despair, Sailboats and Swans confronts one's preconceived notions about prison, and what we think criminals, eve...moreA strange juxtaposition of beauty and despair, Sailboats and Swans confronts one's preconceived notions about prison, and what we think criminals, even murderers, look like. Photographed mostly in Ukraine, as well as one in Russia, the prison walls are often papered in florals or decorated with hand painted murals depicting idyllic scenes, that are deceptive in not revealing the pain, the tedium, and perhaps, even violence, whose presence ghosts between the plates in this book.
With the exception of a few harder glares and more grisly portrait sitters, many of the faces we are presented with are young, attractive, sometimes angelic even. There is a softness especially amongst the women and girls, that makes the mind question if they're really capable of the crimes they're said to have committed. We'd feel more comfortable, as a society, if all criminals fit neatly into the palm of our illusions of a thief, a drug dealer, a murderer, as if there was a universal face, or obvious markings for such crimes. These prisoners look all too much like us, like anybody, and so you begin see yourselves as them, and them as human beings, the dividing lines becoming blurred and indistinguishable. You forget that you're seeing fragments of lives ruined, uprooted, dreams interrupted, by their own evil doing, or perhaps, by unfortunate events, by a simple mistake, human desperation, a need for survival, the latter of which is played out all over again in these prisons.
There's no dust jacket description, and if you unwittingly picked up this book, you may not even know at first, that you're looking at prisoners (especially if you're American, like myself and expecting gray walls, metal bars, and electrifyingly orange jumpsuits, to signal prison life), and much like Chelbin who did not ask about their crimes until after she finished photographing the individual, we too, are forced to meet all of their gazes, before ever knowing of their sentences. The brief essay and interview at the end, were the perfect accompaniment, insightful, intriguing, without overwhelming or taking away from the photos, a series to haunt and revisit again.(less)
Patrick Cariou's photo anthology of gypsies is eyeopening, jarring, and stereotype dismantling. Confessionally, I've kept a romanticized vision of gyp...morePatrick Cariou's photo anthology of gypsies is eyeopening, jarring, and stereotype dismantling. Confessionally, I've kept a romanticized vision of gypsies from when I was a little girl and reached the special feature page on the Roma in my history book that fascinated me so intently. In the opening chapter of Cariou's "Gypsies", the images where so far flung from my idealized picture of gypsies that I almost wished I could convince myself that they were nothing but nonfiction, pure put-on fabrication. I found the book more beautiful as he traced the gypsies through land and history, to their believed origin of India. Alas, these were the gypsies I was familiar with, the gypsies I dreamed being one of. But how unfortunately ignorant I had been, of the immense diversity of gypsies. Cariou delivers an encompassing look at gypsy culture, which cannot be pigeon-holed or wrapped up with a bow. He does not romanticize them with soft focus, but instead illuminates with flash, and bold, unflinching colors.
I recommend Tony Gatlif's 1993 documentary Latcho Drom as a film companion to this book. The journey of the Romany people told through musicians and dancers of India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain.(less)