PODCAST: A Photographic Life, Episode 242 ‘Christmas Special’: Plus Photographer Jonas Bendiksen

In this special extended episode UNP founder and curator Grant Scott is in his shed talking with photographer Jonas Bendiksen about the future for photography, synthetic images, beginning projects, how to stay relevant, generic images, photographic confidence and the pressures of success.

Born in 1977 in Tønsberg, southern Norway at aged 19, Jonas Bendiksen started a one-year internship at the Magnum Photos’ London office. He made coffee and tea, ran to the post office, answered the phones and returned prints and slides to their correct places in the archive. He left Magnum and headed to for Russia to try to become a photographer and fell madly in love with the former USSR, spending several years there resulting in his first book, Satellites – Photographs from the Fringes of the former Soviet Union, which came out in 2006. He joined Magnum Photos in 2004. Fascinated by enclaves and people living in isolated communities Bendikson started another project in 2005 focused on the urban slum. His The Places We Live body of work became a three-year journey through four slum communities around the world, and in 2008 it became a book and exhibition featuring projections and voice recordings in a three-dimensional installation. In 2017 his book, The Last Testament, about people who claim to be the Second Coming of Christ was published. In 2021, his book The Book of Veles, departed from traditional photojournalism practice by creating a conceptual work about “fake news” which consisted of images that were “faked” using CGI to place humans and bears in scenes that Bendiksen had photographed devoid of life, mixed with excerpts from The Book of Veles (a forged ancient text), and AI-generated texts. The deception, initially not disclosed, escaped detection from his colleagues at Magnum and then curators and audiences at the Visa Pour l’Image festival, until Bendiksen revealed it on the Magnum Photos website. The work questioned the ability of the most visually literate people in the photography industry to tell real photos from faked ones. Some of Bendiksen’s clients include GEO magazine, Newsweek, the Sunday Times Magazine, The Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Sachs, and many others. Since 2004 he has worked with the National Geographic Magazine.Bendiksen has received awards from World Press Photo, International Center of Photography, National Magazine Awards and Pictures of the Year International.  Bendiksen lives near Oslo, Norway with his wife and three children. www.jonasbendiksen.com

*You can read more about Jonas’s process of creating The Book of Veles here: www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/society-arts-culture/book-veles-jonas-bendiksen-hoodwinked-photography-industry/

Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 www.donotbendfilm.com. He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.

© Grant Scott 2022

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