A friend of mine at the UN sent me a link to The Places We Live, a photo project by the Norwegian photographer, Jonas Bendiksen, in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo. Bendiksen’s series documents life in a series of four slums around the world: Caracas, Venezuela; Nairobi, Kenya; Mumbai, India; and Jakarta, Indonesia.
In addition to the obligatory sweeping views of corrugated iron rooves, in each location Bendiksen photographed four families in their homes to give a human perspective to the project. I think these portraits are the strongest part of the series, giving a straightforward sense of what daily domestic existence is like in these slums while avoiding any sense of pity and condescension. Bendiksen doesn’t create a sense of divide between the viewer and the people in these photographs.
The exhibition is currently touring in multi-media form, consisting entirely of HD projections and sound installations. The site that was created for the exhibition is very well put together and does a great job of combining informative texts on ths issues related to the growth of urban slums with interesting images. It also gives a series of links to further reading and organisations that are involved on the issues dealt with here. I found that all of this gives the project an added informational and advocacy dimension that doesn’t weaken its emotional resonance… this is no Al Gore Powerpoint presentation. The way the site is built would also enable the project to be expanded and it would be interesting to see Bendiksen (or other photographers for that matter) add additional material to it in the future or to see other projects developed using a similar approach (this could be an interesting idea for the Aftermath Project maybe?).