Seba Kurtis is an Argentinian photographer whose life and work has been heavily influenced by his experiences as an immigrant. His prints are often created from old or damaged negatives, which give the majority of the photographs a bleached, worn out effect. His series of photographs titled Drowned consists of a series of prints created form negatives which were literally thrown in to the same sea which thousands of African’s crossed – and often died – in an attempt to reach the Canary Islands for refuge.
The images could be considered to be quite a conceptual form of photojournalism; however, I see the technique of ‘drowning’ as giving the viewer a smaller, tantalising snapshot of the land these people have given their lives to reach – the fleeting outline of a palm tree, or the seaside resort bleached by the damaged negative. I think Kurtis’s intention was to create a narrative from the immigrants’ point of view with these photographs, giving them the same sense of urgency and desperation that the immigrants undoubtedly went through. It is obvious that Kurtis feels passionately about this subject; on his website he tells of how he faced deportation whilst working in Europe after an 8-year battle with “lengthy bureaucratic bullshit, mind games and loop holes” to gain his legal right to stay.
Kurtis’s online body of work is accompanied by ‘immigration files’, scanned copies of immigration forms for when he was battling to get access to Europe. I think this gives his work more depth, and reinforces the fact he too has been subject to legal battles, deportation and immigration.
Another body of work, Shoebox, is a collection of Kurtis’s old family photos. They were retrieved from a shoebox after their home got repossessed in the 1980s – the shoebox was the only item in the house to survive; the photographs had been damaged by a flood. These flood-damaged prints form the entire body of work, giving a unique insight in to his family history, tainted by the water damage, which for me represents their tumultuous existence.
They are a really intriguing set of images, which have documented the everyday life of Seba’s family. The caught-in-time feel to the photographs, combined with the washed out effect from the water damage gives an eerie feel to the collection. I think Seba is somewhat of a refreshing character in the world of photography, and indeed photojournalism, approaching subjects that are close to his heart, and producing bodies of work which reflect the subject at hand in a graspable, physical manner through the eyes of the perceived narrator.