Searching for Utopia

PHOTO ESSAY

Finding answers to one of human nature’s greatest dilemmas: violence and its roots.

Words by & photos by Fabrizio Bilello


Searching for Utopia narrates my journey during a 2 months visit to Tamera, a peace research centre located in the hilly coast of Portugal. Tamera is the result of a dream conceived by a single man and made reality by a generation of freethinkers born amid the ruins of a devastated Germany. Those same children learnt with shock, as they grew up, about the atrocities committed by their parents and grandparents; it seems impossible to rationalise the events and the burden of the trauma which became encoded in their DNA. Therefore, the desire to create a new culture of peace, light-years away from mid 20th century Germany, was a dream embedded in every new-born of a post-war Europe.

“How was it possible for the Holocaust to happen?

How could good family men turn into concentration camp executioners overnight?

Is it really possible to end global violence once and for all?”

These were among the haunting questions that led Dieter Duhm (Psychoanalyst, Art Historian and one of the Leading Figures in the 1968 Students Movement in Germany) to retreat in isolation in order to find answers to one of human nature’s greatest dilemmas: violence and its roots.

 

After a period of study and several failed attempts, there was a preliminary glimpse into the project. The answers are still being researched but, after many years of preparation, the journey towards a new culture started and, in 1995, Tamera was officially founded.

 

“Tamera is a School and Research Station for Realistic Utopia. The project was founded in Germany in 1978. In 1995, it moved to Portugal. Today 170 people live and work on a property of 330 acres. The founding thought was to develop a non-violent life model for cooperation between human being, animal and nature. Soon, it became clear that the healing of love and of human community had to be placed at the centre of this work. Sexuality, love and partnership need to be freed from lying and fear, for there can be no peace on Earth as long as there is war in love. The ecological and technological research of Tamera includes the implementation of a retention landscape for the healing of water and nature, as well as a model for regional autonomy in energy and food. Through the Global Campus Tamera is working within a global network in the social, ecological and ethical foundations for a new Earth – Terra Nova.”

The community is attempting to create a different social model, based on non-violent ethical foundations, and is seeking to shift the human paradigms of love, fear, and violence. The new understanding of love reflects the efforts to source the core issue behind human violence, and attempts to set the basis for a new culture of love that comes from within. The way the western world is brutally abusing the natural world reflects the condition of lovesickness in our current society; what we do to the external world is a symptom of our suppressed love and the inadequacy to understand our inner world.

 

Tamera is a community with a spiritual vision but it’s  not tied to any religious dogmas, as all that lives is deemed sacred and life itself is their religion. A spiritual vision of life allows to grow a deeper connection among the members of the community and to nurture the interdependence between the community and its environment. Love is a political issue to be solved, which embraces a wider range of topics that go way beyond the mere marriage of a couple. The search for Utopia, which should be intrinsic to all humankind, is strictly correlated to the notion of love and suppressed love.

We are the first generation who has no longer that longing; we are the first generation that is only able to predict a worsening of our political and environmental conditions. I feel that the inner dream to search and fight for a better future is what makes us human beings and, as soon as these sentiments collapse or diminish, it will be followed by a collapse of our species, since we are ignoring and rejecting the universal laws of life.

 

The way to truly reveal something about my subject and its characters is to be fully immersed in their environment and activities. Basically, I try to become one of them so that trust and cooperation can arise and the concept of ‘me and them‘ is cast-off. The reason behind my choice to use a 4×5 camera is to slow down the pace of my practice, which follows an increased sense of awareness dictated by the slow modus operandi. The act of taking photos shifts to a more contemplated act of creating images, where my subjects are actively engaged in this process and become participants in the act of creation. This process pushes the boundaries of documentary photography and unsettles the role of the photographer. The bulky camera however, helps me to grow a deeper understanding of the story I narrate, and also to keep a necessary distance from my subjects, preventing me from becoming completely absorbed by the environment and the group of people I photograph. Yet, the process of slowing down the act of shooting allows me to have an inner dialogue regarding my legitimacy to photograph people’s lives and to better understand the reasons I am driven towards a given story.

 

During my visit to Tamera, I realized that trust is a building process and the more I would open myself to my subjects (I would rather call them my fellows) the more access I was allowed into their lives; this permission, or better yet, integration with my subjects, goes deeper and deeper along the narration of the story, bringing me to the conclusion or the outset that my quest, my search for Utopia, is a request for connection, a true and transparent interaction with other human beings, a true connection that is extended to the natural world; here I find order.

1 - woman bathing at Art Mountain 22 - Yuri's family 15 - Building tree house 14 - Community portrait 13 - Denis 8 - Israelian-Palestinian meeting 5 - Ring of power 4 - Just love 3 - Woman at Brown Lake