Seven years with the Marsaxlokk lampara fishing crew of the Tal-Glawdu family

Photographer Gilbert Calleja spent seven years documenting the Abela ‘tal-Glawdu’ family of Marsaxlokk, renowned for their mastery of the Lampara type of fishing

Photo: Gilbert Calleja
Photo: Gilbert Calleja

Documentary photographer Gilbert Calleja, 42, focuses on long-term socially engaged projects in Malta and around the Mediterranean.

The working title of his research is ‘Identity and the Maltese fisherman: challenging stereotypes through multi-media platforms – a practice-based case study’.

His project is the result of a broad seven-year collaboration with the Abela family, ‘tal-Glawdu’, who live in Marsaxlokk, Malta and are renowned for their mastery of the Lampara type of fishing.

Photo: Gilbert Calleja
Photo: Gilbert Calleja

Gilbert went on over a hundred fishing trips aboard the ‘Joan of Arc’ (the family boat) where he was ‘employed’ as part of the crew during the 2016 fishing season. His documentation includes stills photography and video of the fishing process, interviews with family and past crew members and digitisation of home videos, family photo-albums and diaries.

Photo: Gilbert Calleja
Photo: Gilbert Calleja

The documentary includes the production of two short films, an extended photo-essay and an online documentary. The latter is designed around the diaries kept by family patriarch Guzeppi Abela (1929-2008), which span over 40 years and contain a unique, unsolicited, insider’s account of life at sea and on land, documenting the day-to-day realities of small fisheries in post-colonial Malta.

In a presentation to the Mediterranean Institute on 26 February, Calleja will talk about the creative possibilities of new media and mobile computing as versatile storying platforms for documentary makers.

Photo: Gilbert Calleja
Photo: Gilbert Calleja

“The flexibility of these media is particularly suited to narratives developed through collaborative ethnographic processes. The ethnographic experience is conveyed through a virtual multimodal platform where the public is invited to ‘dig-in’ or journey through a myriad of multi-layered sounds, visuals and text collected from the field.

“The experience of the story is as much a passing-through as it is a making-of, characterised by non-linear associations of fragmentary information.

Family patriarch Guzeppi Abela (1929-2008), kept diaries that span over 40 years and contain a unique, unsolicited, insider’s account of life at sea and on land, documenting the day-to-day realities of small fisheries in post-colonial Malta
Family patriarch Guzeppi Abela (1929-2008), kept diaries that span over 40 years and contain a unique, unsolicited, insider’s account of life at sea and on land, documenting the day-to-day realities of small fisheries in post-colonial Malta

“Arguably, this organic form of meaning-making fosters an empathetic engagement of the individual with the subject, and significantly reduces the authoritative positioning of the author.”

As a practice-based PhD researcher at the Centre for Research and Education in the Arts and Media (CREAM) at the University of Westminster, London, Calleja looks into the potential of new media platforms for non-fiction storytelling. He is particularly interested in collaborative ethnographic processes and multimedia representations.

Gilbert studied history of art and fine arts at the University of Malta (2000) and the University of Paris, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (2004).

www.gilbertcalleja.com

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