Jonas Bendiksen – ‘Satellites’

Jonas Bendiksen(b. 1977) Norwegian photographer, a member of the Magnum Photo Agency and certainly a rising star within the field of the contemporary photography; awarded with many prestigious awards ( ie. World Press Photo Masterclass/ 2001, Infinity-Young Photographer of the Year/ 2003). He had spent the last ten years (around 1996-2006), traveling trough the vast wilds of the former USSR territory, documenting life on the outskirts of today’s civilisation, taking pictures that possess distinct and impressive qualities.

In 2006 the Aperture Foundation has published the ‘Satellites’ – a book-album presenting Bendiksen’s visual attainments from that period. Beautifully designed and printed in a mysterious black/blue duet, personalised with the author’s introducing paragraphs and full of stunning imaginary this book is a delight to have and to use. Not getting that easy excited about the modern visual language of art I simply adore the work presented there without even having a temptation to be cynical or/and critical on any aspect of it, that’s pretty rare in my case… All due this photographer, I should say ‘an artist’, amazing ability to look at the world as almost nobody today dares to look – with sensitivity and longing for beauty and mystery, or even a sort of transcendence everywhere, yet not trying to idealise or/and dramatise the reality under rendition.

Bendiksen’s images are poetic and melancholic, deeply humanistic and admirably thoughtful stories about absence/loss, solitude, alienation, illusions of existence (‘the unbearable lightness of being’) and the ‘naked’ sore truths of existence (the unbearable fact of being – here and now). What is especially compelling that this young photographer, being only in his twenties, had conceived and executed in such a skillful way a complex concept of documenting life of ‘forgotten’ communities functioning without recognition at the margin of modernity. We travel then with him thousands of miles to meet self-proclaimed dwarf-states (like Transdniester), minorities doomed to pseudo-existence by unscrupulous ‘rulers’ of the empire (Jews of Birobidzhan) or scavengers claiming precious metals from still-hot, fallen space-objects (Spaceship Crash Zones in Kazakhstan)…

But how is it possible that in all that misery, ugliness, hopelessness and an authentic existential struggle what we often discover in ‘Satellites’ is pure magic and fantasy impossible to classify in any of above-mentioned terms… Or – not trying to fly too high, is this magic ‘only’ in ours – beholders’ eyes? Yet – how not to praise the artist who is able to spark outworld-ly impressions out of that most obscure, primitive, pitiful ? And yet – just look at the expressed respect, insight, reflection … Thanks to all this and to Bendiksen’s ‘dancing’ (energetic, full of movement) composition the shots tend to survive any kind of maltreatment, being reproduced poorly, stripped of the original colour – they still stand out to grab our attention, mind and heart. They live in our memory long after being looked at… What a talent and what a luck that we can participate in Jonas Bendiksen’s artistic journey…


About kasia

Born in Poland. Lives in Ireland, Cork. Visual artist. View all posts by kasia

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