Open See by Jim Goldberg – Does This Project Fuse Documentary and Art?

I thought Jim Goldberg’s project Open See was very interesting and imaginatively presented but also was very saddening and melancholy due to its subject matter. He chose to employ surprising visual strategies and methods for presentation considering the subject (of immigrants and their hard journey’s to supposedly better futures) is so sobering. Here he often used overlays to the photographs themselves in the form of coloured text. He also framed the photographs in unorthodox ways like taping round the edges onto a dark background or using coloured pen to frame the subjects. At first glance this seems almost amateurish presentation but by looking closer and observing the videos that are also available to see on the opensee.org website it seems to me that this overall aesthetic is coherent and intentional.

© Jim Goldberg/Magnum Photos - GREECE. Athens. 2003. Muzaffar "Alex" Jafari writes about his journey on foot from Afghanistan to Greece via Iran. Now Alex is in school and supports himself by working in a call center.
© Jim Goldberg/Magnum Photos – GREECE. Athens. 2003. Muzaffar “Alex” Jafari writes about his journey on foot from Afghanistan to Greece via Iran. Now Alex is in school and supports himself by working in a call center.

The reason Goldberg uses these methods is so the immigrants can tell their story with the photographs underlaid providing a stark reminder of the realities they face or have faced. Some stories show that the immigrants feel there will be a better future in Europe and are looking forwards but the reality (the photographs and text overlaid together) suggest otherwise. Other stories are less optimistic and the photographs provided underneath the text back this up. Also the videos the website links (of the paper boats and books being made out of the project) show their perilous situations and makes bare the disturbing insignificance some people ascribe to immigrants’ lives. This was apparent not only in the story about the boat carrying immigrants crashing into waves, read by a young girl but also by the fact they were folding the paper holding the immigrants’ photos and stories into a origami boat. This for me reflected with irony the plight of some immigrants and the challenges they face being accepted into the Western world. I felt the videos were not only consistent with the rest of the project but added to its meaning.

© Jim Goldberg/Magnum Photos - UKRAINE. 2006. Larysa, 39 years old. (Translation) "I was a dancer and sold to a man who was a terrorist- he held a gun to my head. Somehow I was rescued and escaped, but the fear has left scars on my heart. (and I will never be the same)"
© Jim Goldberg/Magnum Photos – UKRAINE. 2006. Larysa, 39 years old. (Translation) “I was a dancer and sold to a man who was a terrorist- he held a gun to my head. Somehow I was rescued and escaped, but the fear has left scars on my heart. (and I will never be the same)”

Using the photographs for the projects in this way showed the materiality of the image, how sometimes the image is not just a transparent object. It also for me showed the vulnerability of the immigrants. Therefore in my opinion Jim Goldberg’s Open See project works powerfully and the interactivity of the origami boats and paper books takes the traditional gallery space and transforms it into something more physical.

References:

Goldberg, J. (n.d.). OPEN SEE – JIM GOLDBERG. [online] Opensee.org. Available at: http://www.opensee.org/ [Accessed 21 Mar. 2018].

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