This exhibition presented 65 monochrome prints by Roger Chapman from his major international photography project premiered at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Camel: A Journey through Fragile Landscapes was 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 linchpin. Herdsmen, shepherds and sheikhs alike depend on their animals for livelihood, companionship and status.
This exhibition was a window on to ancient and rarely seen nomadic cultures, with the camel serving as a prism through which to see the resilient and evolving cultural traditions juxtaposed with the inevitable encroachment of modernity. From the local challenges of urbanisation, coal mining and water shortages, 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 was 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 was quietly provocative, compelling audiences to consider their own place and purpose in the world, and to ask how they might live more sustainably, more responsibly, and, like the camel, tread more lightly on the land.
About the photographer
As an award-winning cinematographer, Roger Chapman’s diverse portfolio includes films about the Buddhist King 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 was his first major international photographic project, shot on 2.25in 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.