LITTLE BIG PORTRAIT of NICK DANZIGER
© NICK DANZIGER
Abbas, 15 years old, Komabangou gold mines, Niger, 2005 © NICK DANZIGER
Mah Bibi, 10 years old, who has escaped war and drought, Ghor, Afghanistan, 2001
@ NICK DANZIGER
Ri Hyang Yon, 31 years old, dancer, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2013 © NICK DANZIGER
6 questions to NICK DANZIGER
Which place do you find the most inspiring in Monaco?
More than a place, it’s the light and the beautiful weather. I need this light, exactly like a painter.
Your favourite restaurants ?
I rarely go out as I prefer have dinner at home since I am very often away. I also love family pic nics
Your secret to stay in shape?
Hiking in the mountains, especially in places where you find lakes close to the peaks like for exemple in the «vallée des Merveilles»
One of your little daily pleasures ?
Reading. When I have time!
A local artist you admire ?
The guitar player John McLaughlin and the painter Spencer Hodge. They are also very good friends. As well as their wives, who are of great support to them.
Your secret addresses to share with our Little Big Monaco reader?
Chez Quinquin, rue des Roses. A local eatery.
Photographer of the outcasts
Nick’s photos are published in the most famous magazines and exhibited in museums such as the National Portrait Gallery in London. LittleBig Monaco met with photographer Nick Danziger, who has won many awards including the World Press Photo award and is publishing his new book « Another life » through the crowd-funding platform Unbound.
This British photographer born in London and who spent his childhood between Monaco and Switzerland, has for the last 30 years travelled to some of the poorest parts of the world dedicating his life to photograph the outcasts. It’s when no one is looking anymore that Nick Danziger starts taking pictures.He was led to photography by his love for travel. At 13 years old, when living in Switzerland, he told his parents that he was going to Paris on his own for a week. “They did not believe me. But I did it! I was inspired by Tintin.” For Nick Danziger, travelling is a vertiginous experience and often takes an extreme form. Nick graduated from the Chelsea School of Art in London, but put aside a painting career to embark on an 18-month journey, often by foot between Europe and China, crossing countries at war like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. “I entered China without a visa, across its border with Pakistan. And was later arrested!”
Success came quickly
On his return home, a publisher contacted him to write a travel book illustrated with his pictures. In 1987, two weeks after its publication ‘Danziger ‘s Travels’ became a best seller. “I wanted to go back to painting, but I was commissioned to do a photo-essay on Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks in Iraq.” Subsequently, the photographer started making documentary films, “ In 1989, I went alone to Afghanistan with a video camera.” Once broadcast on the BBC and ARTE his film, ‘War, Lives & Videotape’ won the Prix Italia for the best documentary of the year. This was the first of 40 documentary films.
It was also during a trip to Afghanistan that he adopted 3 children. At the time Britain, his home country, did not recognise single parent adoption, but Monaco opened its doors to them. Since then he has settled down in the Principality, married, and has 3 further children.
Give voice to the excluded
“If I am not working on commissioned projects, I am looking to go to places that are not in the news. I aim to give voice to those who do not usually have the opportunity to do so, in particular women, children, migrants, or homeless people.His topics are serious: poverty, exclusion, war. He grasps the details, the silences, despair, painting the intimate picture of those living in extreme poverty, with the idea to revisit them again and again. In a world where the news agenda moves so quickly, Danziger takes his time and builds relationships with the people he meets. “I have been going to Afghanistan, Niger, Ethiopia, Bolivia for 30 years. People I photograph trust me as I try not to abandon them”.
One who strongly struck Nick is Abbas, a little boy who began digging for gold in the mines of Niger. “Everyday he was risking his life descending a 23-metre deep well without any security devices to look for gold. Who is aware of the dramas lived by these children when buying jewels?” Sometimes Nick’s search for them is almost obsessive, such as the search for Mah Bibi, a 10-year-old Afghan orphan, who had to raise her 2 little brothers. “I went back 4 times without finding her.”
Are there any happy stories? “When living in extreme poverty it’s very difficult to find a way out. There’s is a world with little hope, sometimes without a single penny in their pocket, in total deprivation. As they are aware of better living conditions elsewhere, they risk their lives to come to here.”
Nick Danziger captures the tragedy of migrants as well as those of children who leave the countryside to seek work in La Paz, Ouagadougou or Addis Ababa. And coming back home is not always easy. “It’s very difficult to go from a world where children die because they don’t have enough milk, to another one where milk in all its multiple varieties is in abundance in our supermarkets »
Spirit of solidarity
For Nick Danziger, photography needs to play a political role and do more than just creating awareness, it needs to engender a spirit of solidarity, such as supporting a humanitarian cause. And a desire to awaken a somnolent society. Not an easy task, in a world where the digital age has transformed his job and images are omnipresent.
“We live in a world of living in the instant - we have access to everything, but show less and less interest in anything beyond the superficial. The banalisation of violence, of difficult and precarious situations, even in our own societies, means that we get inured to it. And the media offer less and less opportunities to tell those stories.
Nick puts his hope in children. After his recent visit to a school in Switzerland, he received many letters from the children about their sudden awareness to be born on the right side of the road, and their compassion towards those less fortunate than themselves.
Nick has chosen to publish his next book through the crowd-funding platform Unbound. Called ‘Another life ‘, the book portrays 25 families in 8 countries across 4 continents that he visited at least 3 times over a 10-year period. The idea was to follow their circumstances for over a decade, in order to see if the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in terms of education, health, gender equality etc.. have indeed led to improving their standard of life… or not. In the meantime, we sense he’s itching to paint again .“One day I will start painting again”, But photography seems to play an irresistible attraction. “My wife would like me to stop these journeys, but I know that as long as I am offered a strong meaningful story, I will keep going”.
@ FREDERIC JOLI/CICR Paris
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