When the daily grind of street photography became all too normal for photographer Jesse Marlow, he discovered a new set of subjects for his lens: wounded people, who typically go unnoticed among the sea of commuters in his native Australia. And the result is a gripping series called Wounded. True to its name, Marlow’s photographs show citizens enduring the daily struggles of coping to live normal lives amid broken bones and nursing other wounds.
“The wounded project first came about after I found myself with an injury after a game of social football. With my arm in a sling and unable to take photos, I began noticing other people walking the streets in similar situations and wondered about it being a possible project. It wasn’t until a few years later, after it slowly began building up as a series, that I showed some of my friends at in-public.com. Their encouragement and excitement about the project really propelled me to take it to the next level and start shooting it seriously.
“I quickly became an expert at spotting someone in a crowd with a broken arm or some such injury. My aim with the project was to show that despite people suffering obvious superficial injuries, human beings generally get on with life. It became an unhealthy obsession for the rest of my photography, as for two years all I saw when I left the house was injured people,” Marlow says.
What he deemed as an ‘unhealthy obsession’ soon became this medium that echoes the fragility of humans. Because of his Wounded series, discussions about significant social issues like healthcare and insurance were brought more into the public’s consciousness and has given injured people a medium to express their true conditions.
Endearing themselves to Marlow’s camera are a mixture of characters represented by surfers who straddle the shorelines of Australia’s beaches. They have plastic grocery bags tied over their busted arms and legs from minor surfing accidents, alongside corporate men with plaster casts, housewives with sling arms, young men and women with busted noses, open wounds and sprained knees—all with diverse injuries stemming from a profuse array of activities that went wrong. This includes cricket, football, rugby and basketball, to bar fistfights and other inconceivable physical misfortunes. Clearly, Marlow’s Wounded series shows that suffering a wound or other types of injuries is by no means a reason to stop living. Even for those who have lost a leg.
“In emergency wards all over the world, doctors stitch up, set bones and wrap patients in bandages before spinning them round and out the automatic doors onto the street. `Get back out there’ is the general message. But still humans are fragile. Sure the bruises fade, frostbite can turn into hardened dead skin that resembles gristle, burns can be re-grafted with flesh from our bottoms, but something inside the soul has been tested. Wounds remind us that we are breakable. They give an exact GPS location of where we stand in life. And often they leave a scar forever tying us to that moment in time,” writes Anna Krien, who describes the underlying message of Marlow’s Wounded book.
Compiling his photographs of injured individuals, Sling Shot press first published Marlow’s book in Melbourne in 2005. It became a best-seller among the photography circle and 10 years later, selected images from the book were exhibited for the first time in Australia.
“Jesse Marlow is based in Melbourne, Australia. His works are held in public and private collections across Australia. In 2003, he published his first book of photographs: Centre Bounce: Football from Australia’s Heart, (Hardie Grant Books). Images from Centre Bounce have been exhibited and published extensively, both in Australia and internationally. In 2005 he published a book of street photographs titled Wounded, (Sling Shot Press). In 2006 he was selected to participate in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in Amsterdam. In 2010 Marlow was one of 45 street photographers from around the world profiled in the book Street Photography Now (Thames & Hudson). In 2011, he was awarded the International Street Photographer of the Year Award. In 2012, Marlow won the MGA – Bowness Prize. In 2014, Marlow released his third monograph Don’t Just Tell Them, Show Them. In 2014 he was profiled in the Thames & Hudson book The World Atlas of Street Photography. He is a member of both the international street photographers collective in-public.com and M.33, Melbourne.”