Excerpts from Articles about the Photography of Naomi Olenek & Sandro Malagola
"The artist does not see things as they are, but as he is" - Alfred Tonnelle

For Art's Sake

Photo exhibit at The Center

    Italian photographer Sandro Malagola and local photojournalist Naomi Olenek have opened a beautiful exhibition of black-and-white photos at The Center at Ponte Vedra Beach.
    Entitled Through the Lens and into the Heart - Views of the World, the two itinerant photojournalists take us on an exploration of roads little traveled and unfamiliar to most of us. They document people and places fulfilling their hearts' desires to know the rare and exotic. With skillful composition and printing they translate their experiences and humanize their subjects.
    Their obvious love of the human condition with its many colors and features make for a fascinating tour of the far corners of our planet and our mutually shared humanity.

- C. S. - P.V.R.

A Different View

Naomi Olenek and Sandro Malagola See the World Through the Lens

        ...We've all done it: meandered along the path of imagination, dreaming out loud, yearning for the ultimate liberties.  It is one concept of the ideal lifestyle, the ultimate reward.  Yet some have a different view, one based in pure life experience.  Simply stated, it's humanity - the exchange of a friendly smile or the comfort of a warm welcome.

        Jacksonville's Naomi Olenek cofounder of View Finder, Inc. and husband/co-owner, Sandro Malagola have such ideals.  The couple has traveled to more than 40 countries photographing and documenting the lives of those they meet.  Their experiences are unique and reflect their love for humanity.  Their images depict people in remote locations around the world and their personal struggles and triumphs.

        The couple's passion for the art of photography is clearly reflected in their work.  Although Malagola's post school endeavors were successful and Olenek's stint in the corporate arena brought accolades, their most prized work comes from the streets and villages of third world countries.  Traveling this path could hardly be considered glamorous, but for the couple, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices.

        "Photography has the power to catch a moment in life and freeze it forever." says Malagola. "Black and white is a magic world where that moment in life, even if it is absolutely real, still belongs more to our dreams and our imagination than to reality.  This is the border where the land of art starts.  One of the masters of photography, Edward Steichen, said that "The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself."

            Most of the couple's work is black-and-white.  Olenek explains: "Black-and-white adds depth.  It takes you farther into a photograph."

        A close-up photo of several children standing in a village, cannot be ignored.  "It was the first time that these children had ever seen a camera, or for some, even their own reflections," says Olenek.

        Malagola and Olenek consider themselves explorers.  Their black-and-white photo documentaries of remote villages tell the tales of a people.  They travel light, often carrying a small backpack containing only equipment, first aid supplies and a small bundle of clothing.  Twenty-something-year-old cameras are the preferred gear.  "They are durable and solid," says Malagola.

        After studying the basic customs of a chosen country, the couple is off to some far-away place with no particular itinerary.  Traveling by bus, they often communicate with hand gestures.  A piece of chocolate can also open the lines of communication quickly.

        "Life is so short.  It is easy to forget about the things that are so pure," says Olenek.  "We are interested in education and awareness.  This is a good way for people to identify with themselves.  A good photo is able to speak to you through the eyes of the people of subject."

                                                                   - R. S.- Folio Weekly


Photojournalists Bringing Talents Home

        ...Naomi Olenek and Sandro Malagola travel the world taking pictures together.  They are freelance photojournalists who focus on shooting for cultural awareness and documentation.  Much of their work is in black and white, and their fantastic images have appeared in many art galleries.

        They have an exciting lifestyle and are still shaking off the jet lag from their six week documentary trip to Nepal and Thailand.  "Southeast Asia is a great place to travel," said Sandro.  "The people are very friendly and they have the highest mountains of the world there."

        Naomi said that Nepal, a country bordering Tibet, is an amazing place.  Very rich in culture.  While the scenery is breathtaking, the living conditions of the people can be quite shocking.  "It's very green and lush in the rural areas," she said.  "But Kathmandu does feel the effects of major poverty."

        There was much to photograph and surprisingly, the people there loved to have their photographs taken.  Olenek and Malagola said it is one of the few areas of the world where people don't want anything in return, while Thailand is becoming much more modernized, Nepal is like being back in time 100 years.

        "Kathmandu is a city from the past," said Sandro.  He explains that it is the capital of the country, but people don't even have street addresses.  "It can be shocking in some ways, you see things you wouldn't want to see... suffering that is overwhelming."  "We don't photograph these moments as many do for shock value, we believe that those suffering should be respected and given the human dignity that they deserve," added Naomi.

                                                       - M. F. R. - Recorder