This exhibition presents sixty-five monochrome prints by Roger Chapman from his major international photography project premiered at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Camel: A Journey through Fragile Landscapes is a story of connection, survival and interdependence on the edges of our world. From the dry heat of the Sahara to the bitter cold of the Mongolian steppe, camels are at the heart of pastoral communities in some of the harshest desert environments on the planet. From prized possession to food source, they are a cultural linch-pin. Herdsmen, shepherds and sheikhs alike depend on their animals for livelhood, companionship and status.
Camel is a window on to ancient and rarely seen nomadic cultures, the animal a prism through which we see resilient and evolving cultural traditions juxtaposed with the inevitable encroachment of progress and modernity. From the local challenges of urbanisation, coal mining and water shortage to the global threats of climate change, poverty and inequality, inexorable change is the only certainty for these communities.
Honouring the hospitality and trust offered by the people and communities, Roger Chapman's images are infused with respect and authenticity. Camel is part-prayer, part-pilgrimage and part-clarion call. Revealing the paradox that nomadic cultures are at once both fragile and resilient in the face of change, its story is quietly provocative, compelling us to consider our own place and purpose in the world, and to ask how we might live more sustainably, more responsibly, and, like the camel, tread more lightly on the land.
As an award-winning cinematographer, Roger Chapman's diverse portfolio includes films about the Buddhist Kung Fu monks of the Shaolin Temple, war-torn Bosnia, drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro, the sacred river Ganges and the secretive world of geisha in Kyoto. Camel: A Journey through Fragile Landscapes is his first major international photographic project, shot on 2¼ inch square format black and white negatives. He used a 1970s Hasselblad camera while on location in India, Mongolia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates between 2012 and 2015.