What is a Surface – a description.
Almost everybody has been driving a bicycle in his life. But to India or even further? Why would you do that?
I, Johannes Bondzio, love active photography and am a passionately outdoor, going regularly for a hike with my tent and a sleeping bag.
My great photographic passion are people’s portraits. People do fascinate me, though I can’t really put a finger on it why. Maybe it is the friendships I establish with them, the emotions and the interaction that give me a strong feeling of life that nothing else on earth could give me likewise so far.
Or it is that every human being is inevitably forged by its experiences made in the past? Though we’re living in the present I believe that we bear our future in us already. This way, every person is some kind of kaleidoscope of time.
Secondly, landscape (in a wider sense) leaves a mark on every person. Climate, fertility of the grounds, cultural environment all manifest in a person’s physiognomy. This means that a lot can be seen about the environment by its inhabitants. They are a medium through which a landscape speaks to us.
So by making their portrait we implicitly depict also their homeland. This is one of the aspects that distinguishes portrait photography from other branches in photography.
Furthermore images of unknown landscapes or abstracts do rarely touch us in a deeper emotional way. In our image saturated world they often need image processing enhancement in order to make us take a longer look at the image.
Whereas portrait photography is frank and direct. A relationship to a person on an image is almost instantaneously established. Questions like “Do I like him/her?”, “What’s his/her mood?” and “He/She looks like somebody I know!” arise, causing us to pause for a moment. This is why portraits are so popular and have still such an impact on us, emotionally.
Using the communicative nature of cycling itself I set therefore myself the goal on my trip to India of taking a portrait of a person that I come across every single day. The choice of model is to be kept arbitrary, in order to depict a wide variety of persons and for uttermost flexibility. For the same reasons I will start my trip on my own.
Those pictures will be published on my website with an optional small story about the person and how I met him or her, respectively.
In an already image-oversaturated world, why would I want to take all these portraits for?
Despite that our world has never seen such a measure of modern and fast communication, most cultural areas in the 21st century are still alien for each other. This has various reasons, which are discussed elsewhere.
The idea of getting an insight into foreign cultural areas by modern communication means turns out to be an illusion. Prejudices and stereotypes are fed by consumer like behaviour in the choice of information sources in internet and other media. Choice of content favours the know subjects in general. Thus reciprocal respect and mutual tolerance still grow small, although they form the basis of a peaceful human community.
Due to our limited range of perception, images and articles in media are the only thing we get to see of “reality over there”. But media, even in their vast power, have to limit themselves to a small selection of news to be published. Selling figures and sometimes even political arguments determine this very selection to a large extent, which has to satisfy the peace-accustomed attitude in the majority of the people in western societies. This way eventually an easy-to-handle surface, called world view, is established, which is difficult to verify from our local watchtower.
This is not an accusation than rather some things one should keep in mind consuming media reports. Things work this way. It is our nature.
But according to my own experience this surface does only give a distorted or even wrong perspective on the quality of foreigners. Though stereotypes may base a core of truth, they can only be understood as a rough “direction”. One will always encounter persons who diametrically contradict those prejudices, and admittedly for me those encounters are the most inspiring ones.
The thing that stays is the conclusion that people on earth share the most important things, as cheesy as they might sound: the desire for friendship, the love of family and children and the strong wish for peace.
The huge amount of portraits taken during the trip will not only be an diversified documentary but also prevent me from falling into certain stereotype categories. The depicted people will represent the environment I cross authentically.
This is the aim of the project: By trying to show our common human qualities to enhance mutual respect and tolerance I want to contribute to a more peaceful world community. By using the portrait photo as a medium of communication I will bypass the possible language barrier.
I am aware of the idealistic nature of my approach and the difficult challenge for body and mind. But what do we live for if not for ideals? As a sub-consequence of the project I will thus put my own world view at stake.
To get things clear: my aim is not to preach any blind multi-cultural practice, and to be honest: I already have given up the attempt to convert the world. But I pin my hope on igniting a spark in some of you, who might have similar thoughts like me, to go out and check out the world on their own.
Breaking through this surface – it is possible if you have the will for it!
Good luck for your future,