First, on Thursday in Portland, Blue Sky Gallery opens The Roma Journeys, photographs by Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen.
Family in Szent Miklos, Haranglab, Transylvania, Romania. 2002From 2002-2006 Eskildsen and his wife traveled to Hungary, Romania, India, Russia, Finland, France and Greece to document the lives of modern Roma communities, often living with various Roma families along the way. Though very much from an outsider's perspective (despite his investment of time and living in close quarters), the photographs in The Roma Journeys (drawn from his book of the same name) nevertheless provide a window into the daily lives of the Roma and the conditions they face.
from The Roma Journeys
© Joakim Eskildsen
from The Roma Journeys
© Joakim Eskildsen
The Roma are Europe's largest minority group, yet throughout their long history have been subjected to persecution, discrimination, slavery, suppression of their language and other attempts to banish their culture. The notion of assimilation and inclusion of Roma peoples has been a sharp point of contention across Europe, especially in light of the history of xenophobic attitudes and flare-ups in many European countries (particularly prevalent in anti-Roma and anti-immigrant violence in Italy over the past few years).
written before on this blog, the plight of the Roma is of particular interest to me personally, as I spent a brief period photographing Roma villages during trips to Ukraine, Hungary and Romania (including in the Transylvania region where much of my family comes from) in 2003-2004. And so far, Eskildsen's project is certainly among the most exhaustive and far-reaching surveys of Roma communities that I've come across. Very much worth a look.
The Roma Journeys
photographs by Joakim Eskildsen
opening Thursday 1 December
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Ave., Portland OR
As a footnote, Eskildsen also recently produced a powerful series of images in the U.S. for a story in Time magazine last week titled Below the Line: Portraits of American Poverty, where he brings his same sensibility and photographic intimacy to depicting the worlds of the impoverished here in the Land of Plenty.
Meanwhile, on Sunday in Chicago, ACRE Projects will be exhibiting A Few Metaphors for Distance, photographs by Zach Abubeker as he explores his personal identity and connection to his Ethiopian heritage. The son of an Ethiopian immigrant, Abubeker initially began photographing the Ethiopian diaspora in the U.S. and the effects of assimilation, while learning of his own cultural roots. He then took his first trip to Ethiopia earlier this year.
"Often times while I was walking the streets people would shout 'Ferengi!' meaning foreigner or someone of European descent - white. My father told me it was a term of endearment, but I began to think otherwise. They are pointing me out as one who does not belong. Likely, no matter how much information I can tout about the country or its people I will always be somewhat of an outsider. Strange to think that in the U.S. my race is in more of an ambiguous state, while in Ethiopia, I am not quite black enough."Very interesting to consider that circumstance of feeling somewhat caught between two distinctly different cultural identities -- probably a predicament incurred by many people every day facing the forces of cultural assimilation. I'll be curious to see how that emotion evolves or changes as Abubeker continues this ongoing body of work, and if/how that might visually manifest itself in his images.
feel that experience of what it means to be there with those people at that time. And yet our part in that place, as lush and lucid as it may seem in the moment, can sometimes ultimately end up like we are still on the outside. At the same time though, there are brilliant moments of clarity, no doubt -- and we can carry those with us. So again, I really look forward to seeing where Abubeker's work takes him personally, and where he will bring us along as viewers.
In anticipation of his next journey back to Ethiopia in January 2012 for a more extended stay, Abubeker is currently selling small prints (very reasonably priced) to cover some expected costs for film, equipment and living expenses. Head over to his blog and check them out.
A Few Metaphors for Distance
photographs by Zach Abubeker
opening Sunday 4 December
1913 W. 17th St., Chicago