Last year, we published a selection of photographs from Panos Kefalos’ project Saints, which was selected as a Juror’s Pick in our 2016 Street Photography Awards. We got in touch with Kefalos a year later to see if he had any news to share, and happily he has published a book featuring this fantastic material.
Here, we offer an all-new selection of images from “Saints,” an incisive and poignant text on the series written by Christian Caujolle, and further details on Kefalos’ wonderful publication—
Sharp, dry, precise shots, at times instinctive and surgical. A contrast of black and white that demonstrates how the use of the flash heightens and, in turn, underscores sculptural forms, capturing the subjects in all their detail. Permanent changes in distance, intrusive close-ups in a warped landscape that help us to perceive what we see and reconstruct it in small pieces.
Faces, objects, spaces, details, scenes, moments of excitement or play; then abandonment, for an endless dance assuaged by a few judicious portraits, standing, simple, forward-facing. What more is to be said of this group of documentary images traversed by a vital energy? That they retain (and it is in this that they are highly photographic) an immediate relationship with the experience of a reality that is gone from the frame. That there are traces of experiences that have been, that will not be repeated. So, little by little, the viewers—eager to understand and put them in order, to grasp a little more of what they reveal—recognize some elements, name them, try to understand them and put them in sequence. There are young people: essentially children, but in devastated spaces, difficult to define, often dirty, undoubtedly below ground; then some plants, some trees scratched by the light, and subterranean rooms where a cat could take refugee—but which can also hide a child.
A feeling of degradation, of marginalization. Visual memories of slums, of street children, of violence return. Third World. Fourth World. Yet, there are smiles—forced or not—and tender gestures, maternal, paternal, protective, affectionate demeanors. There is, above all, this presence of bodies, amid movement and abandonment: tension and caresses, on which the light falls, catching the delicacy of the younger skin and underscoring the hairs and the scars of the elderly.
Allusions everywhere. Hair abandoned in a basin, dirty crockery and stoves, games traced in chalk, children’s drawings, radiograms. A world of allusions to be connected—they are individually incomprehensible, but when taken together and elaborated, they induce a feeling of explosion, of permanent danger. The snow is, in the same way, an allusion that entangles the light when it falls and creates images, redrawing a landscape that was grey under a leaden sky. An allusion to the difficulty in the world. Because, in this world, everything is difficult. And difficult to understand.
If you liked this article, you may also like these previous features: Tokyo Is Yours, a series that uses the serendipity and strangeness of street photography to make sense of the fantasies and fears radiating from Tokyo’s residents; Sauna: Requiem from the North, a poetic series on life in one of Sweden’s remote archipelagos—shot against a stark, immobile landscape over a period of 20 years; and La Fabrique d’Exils, an exhibition review that includes 12 never-before-seen photographs by Josef Koudelka.