Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Eric Meola - Last Places On Earth
Eric Meola's highly personal book project is the result of a photographic odyssey that began long before digital cameras came on the scene.
On Technique And Planning
In approaching the project, Meola's focus intentionally wasn't on technique. His main concern was to enter worlds in which he was a stranger, make a connection and an imprint, and leave without disturbing what he had come to see.
Says Meola, “I didn't want to preplan things. I wanted to travel without a master plan. The only parameter was that I'd photograph around an event where people would be drawn together, like a religious event or celebration.”
Understanding that many photographers are intimidated being in a third-world country without knowledge of the language, Meola discovered that with physical proximity, he could get the intimacy in an image he wanted. Ultimately, he would make eight separate trips, contacting travel agents to make arrangements, generally researching points of interest, but intentionally leaving the majority of the photographs unplanned. The physical challenges Meola encountered during his trip would be secondary to the more universal challenge of finding more than one truth for his life.
“There's no single answer,” he says. “My experience has been that my best work has come from my soul and my enthusiasm and not from a piece of equipment.”
The preface of The Last Places On Earth suggested some of the unique physical challenges Meola might anticipate before embarking on his 10-year, one-million image odyssey around the world: “No one had made it to Bilma. No one. It was just 500 miles across the Sahara from Agadez in Niger, West Africa. I had read about it, dreamed about going there and now I was about to add my name to the list of those who had tried.”
The final entry from Meola's journal reads: “I never made it to Bilma. But I made these trips as much to find myself as to find a place. I have crazy memories of a karaoke bar in Langhou, a shotgun going off in a tundra buggy in Manitoba, hobbling through Jaipur on a broken foot, bathing in the Omo River in Ethiopia, sleeping in a bed with scorpions in Niger, being startled as a Huli wigman walked out of the forest in New Guinea, outwitting a functionary early one morning in Lagos, having a camera destroyed in a sandstorm in Botswana, and having my own private motorcycle escort, complete with machine gun, in Angkor Wat. I have been to my last places on earth.”
What's certain is that Eric Meola will go back.
To see more of Eric Meola's photography, visit his website at www.ericmeola.com.
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