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16.10.2020

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Freedom, independence, adventure: living and travelling in camper vans and caravans has become increasingly popular over the years. The limitations of international travel, and the consequences of the coronavirus lockdown in many countries, have further encouraged a trend towards individually designed holidays.

The idea of giving up a fixed abode and transferring family life to a camper goes a step further. In the USA, this has already been going on for a long time. In the case of the Reis family, the appeal was, above all, to have more family time and to discover the world together, through travel. When the photographer met Ismael and Greice Reis, the Mormon couple and their three children had been living in the USA for two years. They had immigrated from Brazil, and were soon able to earn a living and fulfil all their material wishes. Yet, the dream of an alternative lifestyle grew ever stronger: they sold their property and began a road trip through the USA, with their three children (aged two, five and ten at the time). They were to remain in Los Angeles for ten months, where they managed to get by on casual jobs. The choice to live an existence as outsiders came with delightful highs, as well as dramatic lows.

Saguy’s black and white series was taken with Leica M equipment. It not only documented the family’s life, but also allowed him to become a part of the family. The result is a book that captures closeness and cohesion: in spite of the extremely cramped quarters within the converted bus, the experience opened up a great degree of freedom. For the children, it was paradise; for the parents, it was clearly a challenge to organise food, school lessons, playtime, and earn enough money to get by every day. Consequently, Saguy’s book is not just an ode to freedom, full of clichés and feel-good pictures; he also included many difficult moments. Ismael mentions the “three days of hell”: the bus broke down; their parking spot was lost; and one of the children had an accident and had to go to the emergency room. Having no money and no petrol, Ismael had to turn to begging. The decision to abort a new pregnancy pushed the couple to the limits of their solidarity, and caused them to question their Mormon faith.

Saguy decided to use a very condensed and direct narrative for his book. The flow of double-sided, borderless pictures is interspersed with colourful small-format pages, where the family talks about their life. The striking contrasts of the black and white photographs are perfectly complemented by the colourful pages.

In the district of Los Angeles alone, 16,000 people are currently living in their vehicles. This situation is frequently not voluntary, as the cars are often the last step before homelessness. For the Reis family, however, it was a free choice; one made to enable them to experience family life in a very different way. As a reader browses through the pages of the book, the light-heartedness and the priceless freedom of the family’s time together come across as extremely enriching, despite all the adversities and strokes of fate. With the eyes of a compassionate photographer and close observer, Saguy has succeeded in creating a very emotional portrayal of the life story of an unusual family.
(Ulrich Rüter)

Dotan Saguy: Nowhere to Go but Everywhere
168 pages, 77 duotone pictures and 12 colour pages, 20 x 24 cm, English

Kehrer

Dotan Saguy

Dotan Saguy was born on a small kibbutz on the Israeli border with Lebanon. He grew up in Paris, lived in New York, and moved to Los Angeles in 2003. In 2015, he replaced his entrepreneurial career in high-tech with his lifelong passion for photography, and decided to study Photojournalism. His award-winning pictures appear in international magazines. He teaches Documentary Photography at the Leica Akademie USA, and lectures on Street Photography. His first book, Venice Beach, appeared in 2018, and received the German Photo Book Award.

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