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image by
Jim Goldberg
Open See/ Volume 4

While I am writing these lines,
I am looking again and again at the photograph of the woman above.
I don’t know anything about her,
I can’t read the lines written by her on the image.

She could be my mother.

My dad fled Hungary 1956.
He left my mother behind.
I asked him why he left my mother alone,
he never answered ths question.

I am not here to judge my father in this matter,
I don’t know enough.

So my mother came after him a little while later.
They married in Germany,
I was born 1960.

I was brought up in a quarter with East German and Hungarian fugitives.

So I have a personal reason to be upset about our dealings with the refugees from all over the world. For me it’s only a chance matter to be born in a wealthy country, living in peace, becoming old there without being forced to the decision to risk one’s life, without being forced to leave your native country you never wanted to leave anyway just to become a foreigner for life.

I am upset about the heartless, and bureaucratic way we treat people escaping to our country, I am upset how these people are talked about, I am upset about the way they are forced to live here, and often are repatriated after long years of having stayed in Germany in the countries they came from, regardless if they will be able to survive there.

Our politicians don’t see these fugitives as humans with destinies; they see only numbers and statistics, they see the fear of the German citizens of everybody coming here to stay with a differing cultural background, and they see the money they don’t want to spend on people who, in their eyes, don’t belong here.

Our ruling elite doesn’t seem to know is,
that we don’t own this peace of earth called Germany. Our ruling elite is preferring to stay ignorant about the fact, that these people wouldn’t have to leave their countries if our companies would stop exploiting natural and human resources in the countries the fugitives are forced to escape from.

Jim Goldberg´s sequence of photographs is meant to be read. But the abundance of his material is tiring; he demands involvement, time and effort to halfway grasp what he trying to say and how he is trying to say what he says.

I found it also a way to avoid the ‘refugee as spectacle’, which is so prevalent in photojournalism. In an effort to describe these lives with the small hope of changing something or helping, often the subject becomes nothing more than a case in need of a solution. My only criticism is that the art-making aspect of collage and intentionally amateur, in-the-moment constructions, can feel a bit forced. It is Goldberg’s scrapbook approach – perhaps identifying that the mediums he employs can only provide but a part of the story – that I am both seduced by and yet weary of.

Source: 5B4/ Photography and Books

I am happy that Jim Goldberg is avoiding this luxurious journalistic exploitation of the suffering Sebastian Salgado is the main protagonist of.

The more I was occupied with Jim Goldberg’s “Open See”, the more I started to enjoy how he is reflecting photography through his images, and also reflecting in a very respectful way the destiny of the people he met and collaborated with. Collaboration as the opposite of exploitation.

The “others” are always an anonymous group of strangers. This makes it so easy to debase them. Jim Goldberg artistic strategy helps us to regard the refugees as what they are, individuals who have to be treated respectfully and decently.

Mrs. Hadertauer, I quoted her shameful speech earlier, has to be treated respectfully too. There is a reason for her way of functioning. She is part of THE RULING ELITE, she is a functionary, and she is formed by her profession and functioning exactly as the RULING CLASS is demanding from her.

She as a person could be different too. But that’s Utopia.

Jim Goldberg’s photographs hit me,
because of their quality, because of the artistic choices he made
and because of what they are saying.