A project by internationally working documentary photographer Claudio Cambon that tells the story of the last voyage, dismantling, and recycling of an American merchant vessel in Bangladesh in the late 1990's.
Through both words and images, Shipbreak describes how one ship became a touchstone for many groups of people across the world: from the American shipbuilders who built her in the early 1960's and the seamen who worked on her for almost four decades all the way to the Bangladeshi shipbreakers who took the vessel apart, more or less by hand, and the many people who incorporated the ship's raw materials into their daily lives as part of their country's effort to develop its infrastructure and economy. The book describes how the ship was a source of livelihood for all these individuals, whether they were engaged in the act of its creation, operation, or apparent destruction, and it draws a seemingly improbable connection between them in order to reveal a common humanity above and beyond the boundaries of space and time that appear to separate them. Shipbreak also depicts how their lives collectively give this magnificent object a metaphoric life of its own, and as such, the book becomes a meditation on the nature of life itself, on its loss and its transcendence. From photographs of the ship's blueprints and launch to ones of objects made with the recast metal, it bears witness to the way the ship was born, lived and died, and ultimately came to live again, albeit in a myriad of new forms that bear little resemblance to its former self.
Claudio Cambon (born 1967 in the USA) has been a documentary photographer for more than 20 years since obtaining his undergraduate degree from Yale University, where he studied with Richard Benson, Jo Ann Walters and Stephen B. Smith. He also studied briefly at the San Francisco Art Institute with Linda Connor. He has photographed all over the world: in Italy and Germany, where his parents are from and where he has lived for various periods his life; across the American West, where he worked as a hand on cattle ranches; in Bangladesh, where he documented the last voyage, breaking and recycling of an American merchant ship; and in Mexico, where he photographed life in rural areas of the country. In the academic year 2011-2012, he began a long-term project about religious festivals in Bangladesh under the auspices of a Fulbright fellowship.
Claudio Cambon has exhibited, lectured, and been published and collected internationally; most recently, his work formed part of the Italy Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, 81 years after his grandmother and 101 years after his grandfather, both painters, last exhibited there. He divides his time between Bangladesh, the US and across Europe.