317 Days to Mars – Maciej Jeziorek
The album consists of 121 colourful photographs taken in New Dehli between 2013 and 2015. What at first sight seems a chaotic collection of images from the Indian capital reveals itself as an editorial masterpiece after a closer look.
On 28th April 2001, from the Bajkonur launching site in Kazakhstan, a rocket lifted off with the first space tourist. Dennis Tito, an American millionaire, paid Russia 20 million dollars for the trip. For a sum equal to the value of a small island, the wealthy American man felt the real state of weightlessness, but didn’t touch ‘foreign soil’. In his album-enigma, Maciek Jeziorek proposes a much cheaper alternative to the extravagant tourism in the cosmic rocket. What’s more – it actually ends on another planet.
India. A country as big as the entire European Union, is like another planet on Earth. Jeziorek’s subject is New Dehli, which has more than 20 million inhabitants. ‘A city-hell’, the photographer says, but he seems more excited than frightened.
The book is a surprise even as you try to open it. It’s really difficult to describe: a Rubik’s cube, or a puzzle with an infinite number of right answers. At first sight you notice that the directions are distorted. The up and down and left and right directions don’t work. Everything gets mixed and interwined, creating a big ‘undefined place’. There are even more enigmas.
Firstly: the title. 317 days is a reference to the duration of Vasco da Gama’s first successful trip from Europe to India.
Secondly: the form. Its eight publishing sheets have been covered by a folded, modern map of the movement of Mars towards the Earth, referencing the so-called ‘mandala’, drawn in the 16th century by Jan Kepler. As mentioned before: one does not know how to hold the book, and a change of perspective requires either the movement of the reader’s body or the album’s itself. Centerfolds are orienting points. Each of them in a direct way references the mission to Mars.
Thirdly: the photographs. Maciek Jeziorek is a technical photographer by trade. Having power over the frame, multiple outlines, free-form select, adjusting the camera’s optics to the subject is all very easy for him. All photographs were taken using a fixed 50mm camera lens, which means that the photographer had to stand very close. Almost touching the people photographed with the bulging glass. They all look directly into the lens, watching the photographer and – through him – also the reader seeing the pages in the book.
The people of New Dehli don’t stare at us shamelessly, they stand with their back to us, pointing to something in the sky. What is it? A rocket? Smog? The sun? Hindu gods? From the sky the photographer turns our attention to the images of sidewalks and streets, and there to rats, colourful powders, holes in red soil. Jeziorek’s photographs, colourful and taken from a close range, perfidiously break into the ‘reader’s’ perception – one has to use their sight to receive stimulants usually arrogated to other senses. 128 pages of synesthesia.
Jeziorek’s book is a journey into the unknown, a roller-coaster ride, a walk through hell without a guide. Although we are led by the hand, we have to search and find connections by ourselves. That’s how we find optical games: here’s a man carrying something with a tangle of cables and plugs, who turns out to be three-dimensional; as with stroboscopic lighting we see his face, but just a few glimpses/pages later he turns his back to us. In the crowd of images, many protagonists appear, but they always do it imperceptibly.
The book's paging deserves special attention. Kasia Kubicka ignored all rules of normal, traditional printing of photo albums. Together with Jeziorek she teases the reader, putting unsettling landscapes as from another planets into perfectly fitting sets of photographs.
To use the book in the correct way, one has to put on three-dimensional gasses designed by the author himself. Then the map – which is the cover – turns out to be a cosmic landscape. This cover-map is also a cover-background, in which the book can be placed as a piece of the Martian landscape – it’s enough to place a chosen page to a white spot on the ‘map’.
317 days to Mars messes with readers' heads and distorts their perception. It’s a book meant to be flicked through, folded, turned and – for some – maybe even to be thrown on the floor in anger. Its unsettling, ambiguous form is a voice in the discussion about street photography. It is opposed to the postulate of putting photos into a global context, turning general references into personal feelings. Through his ‘journey to Mars’, Jeziorek breaks the Western notions of India. He argues with the National Geographic school, represented by Steve McCurry and his famous reportages from India. He also argues with his own earlier work from the album Through the Glass. Jeziorek takes a step further, creating post-touristic photography, taken out of context and forming a meta-commentary about itself.
The book was published in only 450 copies, which should worry everyone who’s interested in India or photography. There is no better and quicker way to go to the middle of New Dehli than opening Jeziorek’s album. There’s none – and I’m taking full responsibility for these words.
Maciej Jeziorek, 317 days to Mars
Dimentions: 15,5 x 23 cm
128 pages, paperback
121 photographs taken in New Delhi, India, 2013-2015
Concept and photos: Maciej Jeziorek www.maciejjeziorek.com
Graphic project: Kasia Kubicka www.kasiakubicka.com
Project's website: www.317daystomars.com
Author: D.S., translated by NMR, January 2016Dagmara Staga