A project that came to life over a decade ago and since underwent a series of reformations, “Photographs of an Unwritten Future” by Geo D. Oliver is currently on display at Pozytywka in the Kazimierz district of Krakow, and will run until March 28. Made up of 40 black and white photographs, some with touches of color, the exhibit introduces its viewers to the outgoing personalities, unrepeatable scenes, and unique places Geo encountered during his various journeys.
Originally from Alaska, Geo moved to Hollywood in 1997 to pursue his career as an actor. An encounter with a group of backpackers in Hermosa Beach inspired him to dig up his camera out of the closet and start photographing his new friends. The idea developed into a project which led Geo to travel from place to place, eventually bringing him to Europe in 2003. As expected from any long-term project, it turned into a huge learning experience.
Generally presented in hostel galleries throughout the U.S. and Europe, these images have been selected from an immense collection consisting of hundreds of photographs taken in cities such as Hermosa Beach, Las Vegas, Bruges, Dublin, and Barcelona.
Viewers may be familiar with some of the photographs, as this exhibit is a prototype for postcard racks designed for the hostel network. Through cooperation with HostelBookers, 20,000 postcards were distributed in 2007 to mark the artist’s 10 year anniversary with photography and to promote his web site, PHOTOhype.com. The title of each photograph, central to the interpretation of the piece, refers to the slogan created by Dave Orr in reference to the PHOTOhype web site: “A little of the magic of traveling captured in photos and quotes. If you ever forget the point of traveling, this is a reminder of what it’s all about.” According to Geo, the text accompanying the photographs brings the project into a commercial platform. Unusual for travel photography, it is not clear where each of the photographs was taken. However, the next lot of prints, which Geo calls ‘generation four,’ will include locations in small type above the titles. The most recognized of the set, “yin-yang siesta,” portrays a bird’s eye view of a young couple taking a nap on a balcony in Barcelona. Another scene, titled “lazy days” depicts a girl asleep on the hostel couch during a game of pool.
While some of the photographs demonstrate tranquil situations, such as resting on hostel grounds, relaxing on the beach, and going for a stroll, others present the thrills of life on the road. For example, “mischief & mayhem,” an image filled with motion and excitement, presents two young men in the front seats of a convertible, driving down a strip in central Las Vegas with their heads turned back towards the camera.
Though a larger format would have given the photos more intensity, the exhibit successfully conveys the spirit of traveling and instigates a feeling of adventure. While most of the photographs were shot on film, in cases where Geo would need to capture a moment and did not have access to his camera, he would either borrow one from whoever was sitting next to him at that time, or even take a picture with his mobile phone. Accordingly, when asked about the significance of photography to travel, Geo answered “photography preserves memories that are hard to visualize.”
During the past ten years, the original photographs comprising the collection have done some traveling of their own. Since their introduction to Europe in 2003, they have been displayed in London, Dublin, Berlin, Munich, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Wroclaw, Krakow, Sopot, Bruges, and Ghent, amongst others. Consequently, the exhibit has taken on many different styles, forms and sizes. One of the largest displays includes some 135 photographs making up the permanent exhibit in The Midas Touch, a backpacker bar in London.
In 2006, Geo drew up and printed 1,000 copies of a book containing his photographic work. He is continuing to produce backpacker films about the point of traveling and further promote his photographs in European hostels. Having now lived in Krakow for three years, Geo has finally broken the trend of moving to a new city every two years and plans to stay – at least until he comes up with the next adventure.
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