email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlaySame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts
Between 2005 and 2007 Jonas Bendiksen visited some of the most prominent and overwhelming slums on earth. He went to Nairobi, Mumbai, Jakarta and Caracas and recorded ordinary life. The result is this book which contains not just the photographs he took, but also stories from the lives of the people he met.
In his Introduction to the book Philip Gourevitch, well-known as an author and documentarian himself -- he is also the editor of the Paris Review -- says that it would be a mistake to regard The Places We Live as "a message book". He sees it as a far more subtle wok of reportage, blending the documents with the stories in a way that makes us think and in thinking know ourselves a little better.
Bendiksen is strongly influenced by the Magnum tradition of reportage photography. His images are both political and personal and he works with a strong eye to composition and form. These are not candid photographs, stolen snapshots or covert observations. They are carefully constructed and arranged, deliberately tinted and contrasted. Even the frequent four page fold-out format makes us pause as the images are slowly revealed. It is not possible to quickly flick through the book, halting only briefly on this image or that. We have to take a moment of deliberate action to uncover what Bendiksen wants to reveal. He manages to avoid the cold voyeuristic eye, although his richly, hyper-saturated coloured and deeply toned prints, using deep shadow and contrast can give an ambiguous beauty to what may in close reality be appalling conditions. Many of the photographs are taken at night or in the early evening and the light is flattering. The colours are rich and by and large he steers away from portraits. Often the people in the photograph are small and engaged in some activity rather than posing for the camera. Where there are exceptions the setting is usually the person's home. Some people do smile for the camera -- as we are taught, but most are neutral. There are couples and children and people living alone, but it seems Bendiksen is always seeking some elusive glimpse of dignity. It is perhaps that ambiguity and ambivalence that engages the reader; that prompts a return and re-return to a scene or a phrase in an effort to grasp more fully the lived experience.
Bendiksen tries to allow people to speak for themselves. Sample fragments of the personal statements from the section on Jakarta read that "We get evicted once a year", "My father couldn't afford to care for me, so he gave me to the person who owns the water pump", "I was twelve years old when I got married", "When the thugs come with their guns you tell them to leave -- that house over there has thirty-six bullet holes", "You see 10 year old kids with guns in their hands", "In this slum they are practically always killing", "You have to kill -- otherwise they will kill you", "Most people think trash is disgusting. We don't say no to it as long as we can feed our families".
Such insights serve to remind us that there are still lives being led -- and human stories to be found, even if they are hard to identify with at times.
The book begins with the statement that a watershed moment was reached in 2008 when for the first time more people were living in cities than in rural areas. And one third - more than a billion people -- were living in slums. These are areas that are in every sense marginal. They are in a very palpable way, non-places. Unseen, unnoticed, unrealised. Bendiksen's aim is to redress as much as he can. He tells us that "shanties are homes where conversations take place over dinner, kids do homework, and neighbours live next door".
How would any of us respond to the drive for dignity in such circumstances?
Perhaps one of the most disturbing facets of Bendiksen's book is that it would be all too easy to undertake a similar project in a score of other cities. Would we see the same stories -- different particulars, but the same themes -- in Sao Paolo or Mexico City or Kolkata or Dhaka or Lagos or Johannesburg? Most probably. But that should not in any way detract from the value and importance of the book, nor its impact or ability to make the reader soberly think of others and feel compassion.
One quote from a resident of Mumbai asks, "If we tell people about our house, will anyone believe us?" Perhaps, if no-one ever tells no-one will ever believe.
© 2009 Mark Welch
Mark Welch, British Columbia
Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology.
We feature over 7800 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and
We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.
Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'
Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send
review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank
you for your support!
Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these
announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click
Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers
for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Promote your Page too
Metapsychology Online Reviews