CULTURES IN TRANSITION by Oliver Klink
Cultures in Transition explores the changes that people go through, the subtleties that make their life evolve, their spiritual guiding light. As a boy in Switzerland, Klink had dreams of becoming an explorer, to follow his deep curiosity and hunger to understand what makes people who they are. In 2001, he made his first trip to China with his wife and in-laws, who had left their country in the 1970s.
Their stories were riveting and became the catalyst for Klink 30 trips in the next 15 years to five Asian Countries (Bhutan, China, India, Mongolia, Myanmar). He photographed environmental portraits of the continuity between family, work, and spirituality. There was no separation, but peoples’ concerns about how ‘progress’ can create disconnection and alienation between themselves and their communities became more evident. This fluidity of life is at the core of Cultures in Transition.
EXPLORATIONS ALONG AN IMAGINARY COASTLINE by Martha Casanave
I was required to memorize Mikhail Lermontov’s “The Sail” (1832) in my first Russian class when I was still a teenager. I never forgot the poem, but it took many years to re-surface visually, in my photography.
Loosely translated, the poem says: “A lonely sail whitens in the deep ocean fog. What is [he] looking for in a faraway country? What did he abandon in his homeland?” Further on, the poem says: “And he, rebellious, seeks out storms as if in storms there is peace.”
I have never been particularly drawn to landscape photography, but the pinhole camera, with its short focal length and placement directly on rocks or the ground, doesn’t produce anything like a “natural scene.” I allowed myself to move things around: seaweed, shells, rocks, etc. and brought props of my own. Then I introduced the 19th-century man, a mysterious and restless figure who came from Lermontov’s poem and gave the work the narrative quality I was seeking.
I photographed only on cloudy, windy and stormy days. The other-worldly effect provided by the pinhole results from the wide-angle distortion, the fuzziness from lack of lens, the “crab’s eye” vantage point, the near-infinite depth of field, and the long-time exposures necessitated by the tiny aperture. Pinhole photography is slow, silent and meditative. No “shooting” for pinhole photographers! No, we uncover the aperture and allow the light to accumulate. We don’t use viewfinder, batteries, or shutter. A box with a tiny hole: a simpler, more primitive picture-making apparatus doesn’t exist.
This body of work is laden with surreal, dreamlike views, meditations on time, history and narrative mysteries. Only a pinhole camera could do it.
Camera: Box pinhole
Film: 4 x 5 Tri-X
Prints: Toned silver gelatin