(with photographs by Grzegorz Wełnicki)
Eli, Eli, reportage, Czarne 2013, 152 pages, ISBN 978-83-7536-519-1
Rights available: World
Those who will read Eli, Eli will perhaps no longer be able to travel like they used to. Wojciech Tochman tells the story of the unknown Philippines, of the world of the poorest of the poor who have lived for years in the slums and graveyards of Manila. But this book is not only about them; it is about us, too.
We travel more, we photograph the world more. But we do not see the things grasped by Tochman in his writings and by Wełnicki in his photographs. We cannot see what is underneath: pain and suffering. Why? Because we have become immune to them. Tochman looks through his camera the other way round to scrutinise us, but also himself, to see how we view a tragedy, how we perceive another person. And he revives our bond of empathy.
Eli, Eli is a book that both accuses and brings hope, or even maybe a solution to the dilemma of how to behave in the face of human suffering. A reporter’s attentive eye, ability to challenge one’s own perceptions and openness to another human being are of key importance in this task.
Tochman’s dense prose is illustrated by Grzegorz Wełnicki’s excellent, moving pictures. The faces we see on them are not anonymous. Tochman tells us the story of the people depicted in the photographs – every one of them. With his trademark sensitivity known to the readers of his previous books, he introduces us to the silent world of a tree woman, to the everyday life of children living in the graveyard, to the drama of a 14-year old protagonist of a soap opera which will never be filmed. We are looking at their lives at such close range that we are finally beginning to feel.