Bendiksen returns from his experience amidst the cultural fallout of the once
mighty Soviet Union to narrate a disparate legacy from that unravelling
narrative, with a book resonating with images from the collapse of an empire.
The disintegration of a political ideology which reached so far as to dare
conquer the moon, set in motion the creation of fifteen new states and a
multitude of ethnic communities, released from under the iron fist of soviet
rule to redefine and reinvent their future economic and cultural identities.
Bendiksen explores the fractured landscapes of human experience dispersed
throughout the territories of Asia and Europe, now geographically abandoned
as scattered and spent artillery shells in the fringes of these former soviet
satellite states. Satellites
focuses upon six dislocated locations which ‘offer stark proof that the break
up of the Soviet Union is still a work in progress' 15 years after the demise
and is crafted into a stimulating blend of factual history and written
personal accounts which becomes a beautiful photographic meditation on seven
years work and experience since 1998.
working on stories that get left behind in the race for
headlines - journalistic orphans. Often, the most
and convincing images tend to lurk within the
oblique stories that fly just below the radar.
Bendiksen's work in Satellites
maintains the high calibre of expectation established by a select band of
documentary photographers prepared to immerse themselves into an experience
to visually chronicle the world. Representing the Magnum Photo agency whose
lineage includes the iconic work of Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Capa
carries a weight of expectation to deliver insightful and beautiful
photography. Bendiksen's images from the former Soviet Union achieve parity
with the canon of photographic luminaries to which his work has aspired. Satellites is a collection of remarkable
colour photographs that enables the viewer to contemplate evocative
geographical spaces and emotive human experiences which would be physically
impossible for us to occupy. Bendiksen channels his sensibility towards his
subjects through the camera lens and evokes the places he journeys through
and lives he encounters inside the vivid double page images of Satellites. Only the skill of a great
photographer can bind the human eye and the mechanical apparatus to reassert
the power of the still image to advocate a space in which the viewer has time
to meditate and evaluate the visual information to which they are being
Magnum is a
community of thought, a shared human quality,
about what is going on in the world, a respect for
what is going
on and a desire to transcribe it visually
(Henri Cartier Bresson, www.magnumphotos.com)
Bendiksen's eye for representing and upholding the integrity of human
experience readdresses the dynamics of our mediated information society
through cultivating our consciousness to the challenges of life in
Trandsneister, Birobidzhan or The Ferghana Valley. We need the photographer
to refocus our awareness by visually penetrating and documenting the events
of the world which fall away from the communications radar, asserted by the
powerful minority able to control and transmit visual information via global
news apparatus. As a society absorbing incredible volumes of visual
information through twenty four hour television signals with infinite access
to downloading news broadcasts, we potentially misdirect our knowledge
towards a passive reception of incessantly repeated moving images which only
serve to dilute impact and anaesthetise the meaning of those stories
unfolding at the click of a button. When Bendiksen releases the camera
shutter he halts the currency of commercially biased news agencies and the
political affiliations they choose to serve and address. Satellites, refreshingly draws us into the
void and gives profile to the human turmoil brought by political egotism and
cultural imperialism through the annex of culture by military force.
was won was it worth the price?
functions as a visual proclamation for the political empires of our age,
determined to exert their will by force upon innocent people throughout the
world. Bendiksen himself could do no worse than to mail a copy of this
poignant work to every significant politician in the United States and
British government, who claim to bring freedom to the ordinary citizen.
Bendiksen's photographs bare the truth of that political debris which left
panoramas of empty bullet scorched houses which once contained the lives and
homes of innocent families, sacrificed to the politics of greed. In
Uzbekistan, dictator and leader Islam Karimov effectively outlaws the
practice of the Muslim faith in an ostensibly Muslim country and in 2005
ordered government forces to quell an uprising by slaughtering at least 500
people. All of the photographs indicate the human graveyard of political
actions. Bendiksen does not strive to induce negativity and sorrow through
his photographs; these emotions become products in the experience of his
images but rather the photographs illustrate the truth of human experience
and it is impossible to deny the absurdly tragic joy of men waiting for
Russian spaceships to crash in the barren plains of the Kazakh Steppe.
Why are you
taking pictures we are proud of all this!
To you this
means nothing but we're proud of it, our life
Bendiksen's craft as a documentary photographer remains a fundamental
requirement for our knowledge craving culture. Without the photographer to
adventure out into the physical world and act as bridge and mediator between
his subject and audience, our worlds could remain cast in dark shadows.
Bendiksen's photography exposes our myriad emotional states of being and
finds confusion, desolation, nostalgia and beauty travelling through the
cameras eye. Satellites becomes an educational experience which illuminates
our understanding and meaning of the human experience whilst probing the
eclectic element of chance which can overwhelm and change our existence at
any given moment. The ever reliable Aperture Foundation's desirable
presentation of Bendiksen's sixty eight colour photographic images all
spanning double pages, all framed by striking black borders, provides a
beautiful platform in which to experience this photographic story.
Beyond question, the intriguingly beautiful narrative of Satellites will recall the viewer to
return to the images persistently to contemplate the question of why they
didn't know that this was happening.
© Jonathan Blyth