Thursday, December 12, 2013

Antonio Olmos- The Landscape Of Murder

Photo: Antonio Olmos

Of course, everything has been done and there is nothing new to photograph anymore. And that's fairly true... 99.99% of the time. And the following is definitely not the exception to the rule- I can name at least three other instances in which similar work has been done, each of them brilliant in their own right... as-is-this!  I've posted on Eva Leitolf's moving and eloquent work quite a few times, Joel Sternfeld's similar interpretation with On This Site, and then there's the photographer (whose name I don't recall) that did wide angle, B&W pinhole photographs of places where people were murdered back in the early '80s (a truly eerie essay of commonplace imagery). I've also seen a variety of series done on roadside descansos which have ranged from fairly impressive to mostly readily forgettable.

Interactive Map of Murder Sites
What this particular project does show is what a little (make that a lot of) imagination can do applied to the very simplest of premises, even those that have already been done (and done well). For most photographers it's hard enough to properly photograph what is clearly there before them, all the photographers mentioned here also had to effectively cope with photographing... what's not there! Antonio Olmos is a professional photojournalist, one who (like everyone else) is constantly seeking out new ideas and projects. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much upon first viewing, maybe a couple of good shots among a cast of supporting mediocrities; what I got instead was a series of solid images with hardly a weak link amongst them- moving, compelling images that draw you in with their composition, lighting and stirring emotional impact. This is brilliant work, both in concept and execution!

Most documentary projects are just that, falling well short of any artistic pretense, the converse can also be true- the most highly touted documentary projects can offer such beautifully aestheticized images that the subject matter takes second place, almost to the point of exclusion (think Salgado, Koudelka, etc). Neither is the case here, as beautiful (even 'serene') as so many of these photographs are, one never loses sight of what they are documenting; instead, their inherent beauty helps draw attention towards emphasizing the content. This is what the best photodocumentary does- publicize, depict and explain to an ill informed public the nature of the subject, its causes, and its consequent aftermath(s)... and do so in a unique, informative and visually compelling manner.

        The Landscape of Murder is one very late and very welcomed addition to this year's must get, must have photo book list.

Photo: Antonio Olmos

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