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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Klavdij Sluban

Dates:  1963, 3 March -
Born:  France, Paris
Active:  Global
Contemporary French-born documentary photographer. Originally studied English-American literature, but from 1992 onwards has dedicated himself to documentary projects including a number of collaborations with prison inmates in the countries that once made up the USSR.

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Klavdij Sluban

Winner of the Niépce Prize (2000) and of the Leica Prize (2004), Klavdij Sluban is a French photographer of Slovenian origin based in Paris. Now aged 42, he continues the development of his rigorous and coherent body of work. Sluban learnt the subtleties of black & white printing under the guidance of Georges Fèvre. Although he held a Masters' degree in Anglo-American literature, little by little, he gave up teaching to commit wholly to photography. Never inspired by immediate and sensational current affairs, Sluban's numerous photography trips are permeated with literary references ­ for example, Beckett, Milton. The Black Sea, the Caribbean, the Balkans, and Russia can be read as many successive steps of an in-depth study of a patient proximity to the encountered real. His deep blacks and backlit silhouettes convey to his photographic style uprightness and accuracy free of didacticism or exoticism. In 1997, his work Balkans Transits, which he published with François Maspero, was awarded the RFI (International French Radio) prize. Since 1995, when not abroad, Sluban has run photography workshops with young offenders in prison. First originated in France, in the prison of Fleury-Mérogis with support from Henri Cartier Bresson, Marc Riboud and William Klein, this commitment was pursued in the disciplinary camps and prisons of Eastern Europe - Ukraine, Georgia, Moldavia, and Latvia ­ and in the disciplinary centres of Moscow and St Petersburg. By offering us pictures of those places he is familiar with and of their inhabitants to whom he is a true partner, Sluban unveils the problems of closed spaces and constrained horizons. And by doing so, he brings to both our consciousness and senses the fractures of a confinement enhanced by the internalization of perceptions.
2005-2006 National Gallery, Jakarta, Indonesia (catalogue)
2005-2006 Museum of Modern Art, Canton, China (retrospective exhibition with catalogue)
2005-2006 Museum of Photography, Helsinki Finland
2005-2006 National Museum of Estonia
2005-2006 Festival of Photography in Central America, Son Jose, Costa Rica (with catalogue)
2004 Millenium Museum for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
2004 Gallery of Art of the Union of Artists, Riga, Latvia
2004 Festival Chroniques Nomades, Honfleur, France
2004 Cloître St.-Louis Avignon, France
2003 Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia (catalogue 106 pages)
2003 International Festival of Photography Pingyao, China (catalogue 28 pages)
2003 Image et Paysage, 16 French photographs, Jakarta Indonesia (exhibition & catalogue organised by AFAA)
2003 International Festival of Skopelos Centre of Photograpy, Greece (catalogue)
2002 Transverses: Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris
2002 Ten-year Retrospective of photography (monograph 188 pages)
2002 "Pablo de la Torriente Brau" gallery, Havana, Cuba
2002 "Jérusalem(s)", presented in East and West Jerusalem and in occupied territories (Gaza)
2002 "Paradise Lost", Galerie du Château d'Eau, (catalogue 28 pages)
2002 Encontros da Imagem, Braga festival, Portugal
2001 Musée d'art haïtien, Port-au-Prince
2001 Photography gallery, Santo-Domingo, Dominican Republic
2001 Centre Méditerranéen de la Photographie, Bastia
2001 Historical Museum of Tbilissi, "The Caravanserail" gallery, Georgia
2000 FNAC Photo Galleries, winner of the Prix Niepce
2000 "Rencontres du livre européen", Museum of Literature, Sarajevo
2000 Pouchkine Museum, Odessa, Ukraine. (catalogue 34 pages)
1999 Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris groups assignment and exhibition (catalogue 108 pages)
1998­2000 "Around the Black Sea" presented in the countries of the Black Sea with the support of French Cultural Institutes and Centres
1998 K. Sluban et les jeunes détenus de Fleury-Mérogis: les lieux d'un piège. Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Mois de la Photo Paris. (group catalogue, 328 pages)
1998 Grazia Neri gallery, Milano
1997 Tokyo Today, Metropolitan Museum of Photography of Tokyo. Travelling exhibition throughout Japan and Europe: Royal Museum of Architecture in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Luxembourg(group catalogue 126 pages)
1997 Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d'Arles, Palais de l'Archevêché. Palazzo Pubblico in Sienna, Italy
1997 Encontros de Fotografia in Coimbra, Galeria do Atrio, Portugal
1995­1996 Balkans ­ Transit presented in the Balkans with support of French Institutes
1995 5th International Photography Biennale, Fondazzione Rivetti, Torino, Italy 1994 D'Est en Ouest, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Beaubourg-Centre Pompidou. (catalogue, Filigranes ed., 24 pages)
2004 Prix Leica, Medal of Excellence
2001 Fiacre Fellowship Ministry of Culture
2000 Prix Niépce
1998 Villa Médicis Hors-les-Murs
1996 Fellowship for workshops in prisons, DRAC Ile-de France
Klavdij Sluban 10 ans de photographie en prison ­ L'il Électrique Éditions, Rennes, France DVD on 10 years of photography in prisons.
Entre Parenthèses, Photo Poche, Ed. Actes Sud 2005, (coll. Société), 10 ans de photographies sur les adolescents en prison (France, ex-Yugoslavia, Ex-Soviet Union)
Balkans ­ Transit, text by François Maspero, Seuil ed., Paris 1997 (Prix Radio France Internationale, paperback)
La Confusion des Genre en Photographie, Bibliothèque Nationale de France ed., Paris 2001, (with texts by Mark Haworth-Booth, Anne Wilkes Tucker,)
Transverses, Maison Européene de la photographie, Paris 2002.
Documentary films on Klavdij Sluban
Series Derriére la Page, Coup d'il/Arte, Metropolis, 8min, 2002
Series Photos-Photographes, Cndp/La 5, 13min, 2001
In Henri Cartier-Bresson L'amour tout court, Les Films a Lou/Arte, 90min. 2001
Metropolis, Arte 15 min, 1997.
Work in prisons
In 1995, Klavdij Sluban created a photography workshop for teenagers in the Juvenile Detention Centre in Fleury-Mérogis (South of Paris, the biggest jail in Europe). The Adolescents were taught a creative approach, development and printing in photography. Their work is regularly shown inside the jail. Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson attended several times a year from the beginning of the project, as did photographers William Klein and Marc Riboud who also attended to encourage the participating adolescents.
In 2000, K.Sluban created another photographic workshop in Celje, Slovenia, in the only national prison for teenagers.
Following these projects, Klavdij Sluban started working with young prisoners in the former Soviet-Union (Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia), with similar photographic exchange.
Fonds National d'art Contemporain, Paris
Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris
Musée National d'art Beaubourg, Paris
The Metropolitan Museum of Photography of Tokyo
The collections of the FNAC galleries
Museum of Photography in Braga, Portugal
Galerie du Château d'Eau de Toulouse
Musée Réattu in Arles
Museum Pouchkine in Odessa
Klavdij Sluban - "Transverses" ("Crossings")
Klavdij Sluban is a traveller for whom high seasons and travel commerce mean little. From countries generally considered unvisitable, too poor, too sad and grey, he brings back a harvest of pictures, always in black and white. The basis of his photography is time and people - people he would not dream of staring at. For Sluban is no paparazzo of reality, he is a photographer on a human scale, aware of the shifting frontiers of a profession which allows so many different interpretations, including the most idiotic ones.
This explains the way he constantly calls his work into question, often remaining silent for long periods as if he suddenly doubts his strength at the threshold of his own eye. This inner silence, which is at the origin of all his pictures, is in fact his most precious asset. He brings before our gaze those who, in Haiti, in Cuba or in the republics around the Black Sea, stubbornly exist far from our well-worn clichés of social success.
But it would be useless to see these pictures as appeals for witnesses. In the East as in the West, Sluban works alone, a free spirit, with no commitments other than those he imposes on himself, and expecting nothing in return.
His tools are a good pair of shoes, a black box, and his Leica. In his pocket, a book and his faithful compass.
A simple question : What's the Black Sea like?
Really black! It's the poor relation of the Méditerranean, which is luxuriant, flamboyant, bluer than blue. In autumn and winter there's an atmosphere of desolation which probably continues in the warm seasons. In winter the greys are really striking, everything is interiorized, everyone hibernates within his own thoughts. Everything is the opposite of demonstrative, but it's not empty. Intensity is never where you'd expect to find it.
The Black Sea borders seven countries, from Turkey to Bulgaria. Did one of them have a particular impact on you ? No, I have no preference. Of course I have a soft spot for the self-proclaimed republic of Gagauzia, in Moldavia. And I'm also fond of the self-proclaimed independent republic of Transdniestria, even if it's not such a nice place to live.
Is it hard to come back to Paris after this kind of trip?
I only allow myself to drift during a trip because I know I'll be coming back home afterwards. I'm aware of the limits of this, but I need to work within such a frame.; otherwise I'd probably never accomplish anything. Even for my trips to prisons, I proceed in the same way: I stay three weeks inside.
Three weeks for the trip - how long does it take you to prepare?
I usually know a long time in advance that I'll be leaving. It starts with an attraction for a country, and in this waiting period I often meet someone who has already been there. The way I perceive things comes from what I read, written texts that help me feel things from the inside. When I get to the country, I feel ready in my own way. Leaving itself is one of the worst forms of torture ever invented. I fight against it, but when I'm on a trip, I'm so completely involved that I sometimes realise almost by accident that I've got to go back home. When this happens I'm like a diver coming up to the surface in stages. Then I'm quite happy to come home and I stay in Paris long enough for the next trip to take shape
When you get back do you grab your contact prints to check the "results"? Or do you calmly wait for the next stage?
I'm not impatient, I wait. On the other hand I love getting back from Moldavia for example and looking at the year-old contact sheets from Haiti. This way of distancing myself from experience is essential for making the right choices, and it can only happen with time. As there are failures, my trips in preparation allow me to make more incisive choices. There are boxes for the first selection, boxes for the second and boxes for the third - like divisions in football. And it's been known for third-selection pictures to get promoted to first division! All this goes on at night, when I'm alone; I arrange the pictures into groups, always working towards an ideal.
From the interview with Brigitte Ollier (in "Klavdij Sluban, Transverses", published by Editions Paris Audioviuel/MEP). 
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