Not all photo books are of the coffee-table variety. There are also some with a considerably more modest appearance in which the actual content condenses existence to a few pages. On a book table I spot two slim volumes bound together by a narrow paper ribbon on which the following three questions are written: ”How do we move about in public space? How do we meet each other? Is the city meant for everyone?”
The originators of these publications turn out to be to the Swedish-Danish photographers couple Kent Klich and Tina Enghoff, with each their way to relate to the project ”Get Lost”, initiated by themselves and the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen. The project, which took place for a one year period, aimed to investigate the codes creating the city's structures and to discuss territorial and social borders among its inhabitants.
Kent Klich is a photographer with a strong commitment to those living on the fringe of society. This could be seen not least in his book ”Picture Imperfect” (reviewed in Svenska dagbladet March 6 2008), which recently received the Swedish Award for Photo Books 2009, as well as in his earlier book ”Children ofCeausescu'”, with a preface by Herta Müller, about Romanian orphans.
In his book, called ”Out of Sight”, he has chosen to shed light on some of the more than 3,000 homeless people in Copenhagen. On each of the black pages their names are stated, heaped upon each other to become a tall, swaying tower: Marko, Dennis, Kurt, Robert, Porto, Chopper, Linda... So they do have names: they are not merely shadows against a house wall, or bodies excessively influenced by drink or drugs.
With the permission of these homeless people Kent Klich has photographed their sleeping faces, then enlarged these photos to poster size and placed them in the cityscape. Despite the size of these images a notable initimacy and identification creep in. We meet these people at the very depth of their vulnerability. Sleep, perhaps our most private and also exposed state of being, is also a condition shared by all. A sleeping person, with eyelids closed, no longer observing the world with all of its demands for replies but only resting in it, reminds us of the child with its need for protection and safeguarding.
Tina Enghoff approached the same issues by taking a walk, each day for a year, from the Central Station in Copenhagen to a shelter for the homeless with the ambigious name ”The Heaven Express”. Under the title ”Dogwalk”, her book presents some of the pictures to result from this.
Browsing through them is like taking that walk oneself with the battered mindset of the exhausted and the hungry. The world one meets is a lonely one, hardly a person to be seen, closed gates, a tossed-away banana peel, the blinding headlights of cars, scattered plastic packing. A hazy world where neither the gaze of the homeless nor that of the spectator manage to make the surroundings stand out clearly.
I bring the two volumes together, no thicker than a collection of poems, and carefully tear back the paper slip with the three questions holding them together. I am reminded, again, of the power of the picture, even in a minimalist, condensed form, to enlarge our way of perceiving the world.
© Kent Klich. All rights reserved.