Jonas Bendiksen of Magnum Photos Speaks about One of His Most Famous Images
In early 2000s, Norwegian photographer Jonas Bendiksen has traveled around the former USSR for several years, documenting the life of local population. During one of his trips he went to Altai — he knew that this is the area where rocket boosters from rockets launched in the Baikonur spaceport often fall, and he was curious about the life of people in the local villages.
“As we know, everything that goes up eventually comes down. Each time a space rocket launches from Baikonur the massive booster stages fall down to earth once their fuel is depleted. At least at that time they fell down into populated areas,” Bendiksen says. “While some locals complained about health problems and mysterious diseases allegedly stemming from the rocket crashes, others made good money out of them selling the precious high-grade scrap metal.”
“So I was photographing these men who had started ripping up the spaceship. Farmers, space rocket, butterflies, sunlight on stormy skies: all in all this is probably one of the most surreal and magical moments ever to pass before my eyes.”
Despite the fact that the photograph turned out very well, Bendiksen says that he thinks it could have been even better: “right outside the frame there was a third guy on a horse. The image could definitely do with a guy on a horse in the middle there somewhere! Or maybe that’s overkill.”
When asked about the secret of creating images such as this one, Bendiksen replied that luck is very important: ” I didn’t really understand at the time that this would be a great picture. Maybe I just stumbled into it and it was pretty much down to luck, instead of buckets of talent and know-how. The contact sheet shows that I took three images in total from this angle, even though the situation went on for a while.”
The photographer also said that he could have been elsewhere at this particular moment and would have lost the opportunity to take this picture: “Right after this there was a great big picnic party. So if I hadn’t been photographing it I imagine I’d be lying down in the grass by the riverside, munching away on a great big juicy slice of watermelon.”